New Study Examining Care Pathways Finds Need for Improving Transparency, Establishing Best Practices

January 20, 2016

A new, peer-reviewed study found both strengths and areas of concern surrounding current approaches to development and implementation of care pathways, also known as clinical pathways or integrated care pathways. The study, "Care Pathways in U.S. Health Care Settings: Current Successes and Limitations, and Future Challenges," has been published in the American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC). Conducted by researchers at Analysis Group and the National Pharmaceutical Council (NPC), the study offers four recommendations for improving care pathways.

Managing Principal Anita Chawla, a coauthor of the study, explained in a NPC press release that, "[Care pathways] have enormous potential to impact quality of care and patient outcomes, but our research shows that there is room for improvement in the development and implementation of care pathways, especially when it comes to patient engagement."

According to a survey conducted as part of the research study, most health care providers who use care pathways indicated that patients were not informed or directly educated about their use. Based on research findings, the study's authors proposed four recommendations to improve current practices:

  • Develop a unanimously supported initiative -- Creating best practices to guide the development, implementation, and evaluation of care pathways will help streamline an otherwise complicated process.
  • Create consistent methods for data collection and analysis -- The ability to better collect and analyze data will support critical evaluation of care pathway performance against set goals.
  • Maintain transparency -- All elements of pathway development, implementation, and evaluation should be clear to providers and patients.
  • Provide patient access to disclosures -- Patients should receive information about the development and impact of pathways, know whether treatment plans follow a care pathway, and whether the clinical practice in which care is being delivered is subject to pathway-related incentives.

"Stakeholders need to work together to ensure that care pathways, from development to evaluation, are focused on producing optimal patient outcomes," said Kimberly Westrich, MA, NPC's vice president for health services research, in the NPC release. "We hope this research can raise awareness of the current limitations and be a catalyst for motivating action on the four recommendations."

Read the press release

Read the study

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