Tools, methods, and strategies. Do innovative models of health care delivery improve quality of care for selected vulnerable populations? A systematic review.


BACKGROUND A criticism of conventional office or clinic-based models of care is that they focus on patients' urgent problems and do not provide the comprehensive assessments, education, and psychosocial support that vulnerable patients also need. Innovative models have emerged to address these needs. A systematic review of prospective studies involving searches of computerized databases, reviews of reference lists, and contacts with authors, was conducted to determine whether multidisciplinary teams, outreach or home care, and case management improve the quality of the care in two vulnerable populations-the terminally ill and the mentally ill. RESULTS Literature searches identified 730 citations. 52 original articles met screening standards, and 24 studies fulfilled all criteria. Patient and caregiver satisfaction was consistently higher with innovative models. In no study was satisfaction lower. Functional, clinical, or psychological improvements were not consistently demonstrated. For mentally ill patients, multidisciplinary outreach strategies were effective in reducing inpatient hospitalizations. Costs were inadequately assessed in the studies to draw a summary conclusion. DISCUSSION Like other interventions, health care delivery models can be assessed from an evidence-based perspective. More needs to be learned about the costs and health improvements of innovative models before we can determine whether the increased patient and caregiver satisfaction found justifies widespread use of these models. Development of a uniform set of quality outcome measures and encouragement to evaluate efforts and disseminate results will help accomplish this goal.


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