Although integrated healthcare networks (IHNs) are promoted in Latin America in response to health system fragmentation, few analyses on the coordination of care across levels in these networks have been conducted in the region. The aim is to analyse the existence of healthcare coordination across levels of care and the factors influencing it from the health personnel’ perspective in healthcare networks of two countries with different health systems: Colombia, with a social security system based on managed competition and Brazil, with a decentralized national health system. A qualitative, exploratory and descriptive–interpretative study was conducted, based on a case study of healthcare networks in four municipalities. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with a three stage theoretical sample of (a) health (112) and administrative (66) professionals of different care levels, and (b) managers of providers (42) and insurers (14). A thematic content analysis was conducted, segmented by cases, informant groups and themes. The results reveal poor clinical information transfer between healthcare levels in all networks analysed, with added deficiencies in Brazil in the coordination of access and clinical management. The obstacles to care coordination are related to the organization of both the health system and the healthcare networks. In the health system, there is the existence of economic incentives to compete (exacerbated in Brazil by partisan political interests), the fragmentation and instability of networks in Colombia and weak planning and evaluation in Brazil. In the healthcare networks, there are inadequate working conditions (temporary and/or part-time contracts) which hinder the use of coordination mechanisms, and inadequate professional training for implementing a healthcare model in which primary care should act as coordinator in patient care. Reforms are needed in these health systems and networks in order to modify incentives, strengthen the state planning and supervision functions and improve professional working conditions and skills.
Improving coordination between primary care (PC) and secondary care (SC) has become a policy priority in recent years for many Latin American public health systems looking to reinforce a healthcare model based on PC. However, despite being a longstanding concern, it has scarcely been analyzed in this region. This paper analyses the level of clinical coordination between PC and SC experienced by doctors and explores influencing factors in public healthcare networks of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay. A cross-sectional study was carried out based on a survey of doctors working in the study networks (348 doctors per country). The COORDENA questionnaire was applied to measure their experiences of clinical management and information coordination, and their related factors. Descriptive analyses were conducted and a multivariate logistic regression model was generated to assess the relationship between general perception of care coordination and associated factors. With some differences between countries, doctors generally reported limited care coordination, mainly in the transfer of information and communication for the follow-up of patients and access to SC for referred patients, especially in the case of PC doctors and, to a lesser degree, inappropriate clinical referrals and disagreement over treatments, in the case of SC doctors. Factors associated with a better general perception of coordination were: being a SC doctor, considering that there is enough time for coordination within consultation hours, job and salary satisfaction, identifying the PC doctor as the coordinator of patient care across levels, knowing the doctors of the other care level and trusting in their clinical skills. These results provide evidence of problems in the implementation of a primary care-based model that require changes in aspects of employment, organization and interaction between doctors, all key factors for coordination.
There are few comprehensive studies available on barriers encountered from the initial seeking of healthcare through to the resolution of the health problem; in other words, on access in its broad domain. For Colombia and Brazil, countries with different healthcare systems but common stated principles, there have been no such analyses to date. This paper compares factors that influence access in its broad domain in two municipalities of each country, by means of a cross-sectional study based on a survey of a multistage probability sample of people who had had at least one health problem within the last three months (2163 in Colombia and 2155 in Brazil). The results reveal important barriers to healthcare access in both samples, with notable differences between and within countries, once differences in sociodemographic characteristics and health needs are accounted for. In the Colombian study areas, the greatest barriers were encountered in initial access to healthcare and in resolving the problem, and similarly when entering the health service in the Brazilian study areas. Differences can also be detected in the use of services: in Colombia greater geographical and economic barriers and the need for authorization from insurers are more relevant, whereas in Brazil, it is the limited availability of health centres, doctors and drugs that leads to longer waiting times. There are also differences according to enrolment status and insurance scheme in Colombia, and between areas in Brazil. The barriers appear to be related to the Colombian system's segmented, non-universal nature, and to the involvement of insurance companies, and to chronic underfunding of the public system in Brazil. Further research is required, but the results obtained reveal critical points to be tackled by health policies in both countries.
IntroductionAlthough fragmentation in the provision of healthcare is considered an important obstacle to effective care, there is scant evidence on best practices in care coordination in Latin America. The aim is to evaluate the effectiveness of a participatory shared care strategy in improving coordination across care levels and related care quality, in health services networks in six different healthcare systems of Latin America.Methods and analysisA controlled before and after quasi-experimental study taking a participatory action research approach. In each country, two comparable healthcare networks were selected—intervention and control. The study contains four phases: (1) A baseline study to establish network performance in care coordination and continuity across care levels, using (A) qualitative methods: semi-structured interviews and focus groups with a criterion sample of health managers, professionals and users; and (B) quantitative methods: two questionnaire surveys with samples of 174 primary and secondary care physicians and 392 users with chronic conditions per network. Sample size was calculated to detect a proportion difference of 15% and 10%, before and after intervention (α=0.05; β=0.2 in a two-sided test); (2) a bottom-up participatory design and implementation of shared care strategies involving micro-level care coordination interventions to improve the adequacy of patient referral and information transfer. Strategies are selected through a participatory process by the local steering committee (local policymakers, health care network professionals, managers, users and researchers), supported by appropriate training; (3) Evaluation of the effectiveness of interventions by measuring changes in levels of care coordination and continuity 18 months after implementation, applying the same design as in the baseline study; (4) Cross-country comparative analysis.Ethics and disseminationThis study complies with international and national legal stipulations on ethics. Conditions of the study procedure were approved by each country's ethical committee. A variety of dissemination activities are implemented addressing the main stakeholders. Registration No.257 Clinical Research Register of the Santa Fe Health Department, Argentina.
BackgroundThe fragmentation of healthcare provision has given rise to a wide range of interventions within organizations to improve coordination across levels of care, primarily in high income countries but also in some middle and low-income countries. The aim is to analyze the use of coordination mechanisms in healthcare networks and its implications for the delivery of health care. This is studied from the perspective of health personnel in two countries with different health systems, Colombia and Brazil.MethodsA qualitative, exploratory and descriptive-interpretative study was conducted, based on a case study of healthcare networks in two municipalities in each country. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with a three stage theoretical sample of a) health (112) and administrative (66) professionals of different care levels, and b) managers of providers (42) and insurers (14). A thematic content analysis was conducted, segmented by cases, informant groups and themes.ResultsThe results show that care coordination mechanisms are poorly implemented in general. However, the results are marginally better in certain segments of the Colombian networks analyzed (ambulatory centres with primary and secondary care co-location owned by or tied to the contributory scheme insurers, and public providers of the subsidized scheme); and in the network of the state capital in Brazil. Professionals point to numerous problems in the use of existing mechanisms, such as the insufficient recording of information in referral forms, low frequency and level of participation in shared clinical sessions, low adherence to the few available clinical guidelines and the lack of or inadequate referral of patients by the patient referral centres, particularly in the Brazilian networks. The absence or limited use of care coordination mechanisms leads, according to informants, to the inadequate follow-up of patients, interruptions in care and duplication of tests. Professionals use informal strategies to try to overcome these limitations.ConclusionsThe results indicate not only the limited implementation of mechanisms for coordination across care levels, but also a limited use of existing mechanisms in the healthcare networks analyzed. This has a negative impact on coordination, efficiency and quality of care. Organizational changes are required in the networks and healthcare systems to address these problems.
IntroductionHealth system reforms are undertaken with the aim of improving equity of access to health care. Their impact is generally analyzed based on health care utilization, without distinguishing between levels of care. This study aims to analyze inequities in access to the continuum of care in municipalities of Brazil and Colombia.MethodsA cross-sectional study was conducted based on a survey of a multistage probability sample of people who had had at least one health problem in the prior three months (2,163 in Colombia and 2,167 in Brazil). The outcome variables were dichotomous variables on the utilization of curative and preventive services. The main independent variables were income, being the holder of a private health plan and, in Colombia, type of insurance scheme of the General System of Social Security in Health (SGSSS). For each country, the prevalence of the outcome variables was calculated overall and stratified by levels of per capita income, SGSSS insurance schemes and private health plan. Prevalence ratios were computed by means of Poisson regression models with robust variance, controlling for health care need.ResultsThere are inequities in favor of individuals of a higher socioeconomic status: in Colombia, in the three different care levels (primary, outpatient secondary and emergency care) and preventive activities; and in Brazil, in the use of outpatient secondary care services and preventive activities, whilst lower-income individuals make greater use of the primary care services. In both countries, inequity in the use of outpatient secondary care is more pronounced than in the other care levels. Income in both countries, insurance scheme enrollment in Colombia and holding a private health plan in Brazil all contribute to the presence of inequities in utilization.ConclusionsTwenty years after the introduction of reforms implemented to improve equity in access to health care, inequities, defined in terms of unequal use for equal need, are still present in both countries. The design of the health systems appears to determine access to the health services: two insurance schemes in Colombia with different benefits packages and a segmented system in Brazil, with a significant private component.
Este no es un texto teórico sobre métodos cualitativos aplicados en salud sino un manual auto instructivo, cuyo propósito es proporcionar a los profesionales de la salud una introducción práctica y sencilla a la investigación cualitativa aplicada en salud. A través de un ejemplo real, se conduce al lector desde los fundamentos teóricos al diseño y desarrollo de un estudio cualitativo y se presta especial atención al rigor y al análisis de los datos. Los contenidos se trabajan mediante el análisis del caso y numerosos ejercicios y se complementa con una lista de bibliografía comentada.
BackgroundThe health sector reform in Colombia, initiated by Law 100 (1993) that introduced a managed competition model, is generally presented as a successful experience of improving access to care through a health insurance regulated market. The study's objective is to improve our understanding of the factors influencing access to the continuum of care in the Colombian managed competition model, from the social actors' point of view.MethodsAn exploratory, descriptive-interpretative qualitative study was carried out, based on case studies of four healthcare networks in rural and urban areas. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted to a three stage theoretical sample: I) cases, II) providers and III) informants: insured and uninsured users (35), health professionals (51), administrative personnel (20), and providers' (18) and insurers' (10) managers. Narrative content analysis was conducted; segmented by cases, informant's groups and themes.ResultsAccess, particularly to secondary care, is perceived as complex due to four groups of obstacles with synergetic effects: segmented insurance design with insufficient services covered; insurers' managed care and purchasing mechanisms; providers' networks structural and organizational limitations; and, poor living conditions. Insurers' and providers' values based on economic profit permeate all factors. Variations became apparent between the two geographical areas and insurance schemes. In the urban areas barriers related to market functioning predominate, whereas in the rural areas structural deficiencies in health services are linked to insufficient public funding. While financial obstacles are dominant in the subsidized regime, in the contributory scheme supply shortage prevails, related to insufficient private investment.ConclusionsThe results show how in the Colombian healthcare system structural and organizational barriers to care access, that are common in developing countries, are widened by both the insurers' use of mechanisms that limit the utilization and the public healthcare providers' change of behavior in a competition environment. They provide evidence to question the promotion of the managed competition model in low and middle-income countries.
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