Care pathways: an evaluation of their effectiveness
This paper reports on a quasi-experimental case study of two care pathways — a midwifery-led maternity pathway and a breast disease pathway developed within one British National Health Service Trust. Of the aspects evaluated, those reported here are: a comparison of clinical care delivered before (the control group) and after the introduction of the two pathways; a comparison of patient satisfaction levels before (the control group) and after the introduction of the two pathways; and views of staff involved in the development and operation of the two pathways. The results are mixed. In the breast disease pathway five of 12 clinical indicators showed change, but only two of these showed statistically significant changes; three were considered of clinical significance but could not be tested statistically. In the maternity pathway, after allowing for the effect of gravid status, five of 10 indicators showed changes between the pre-pathway and pathway users and of these four showed statistically significant changes. Patient satisfaction levels showed little overall change — only 15% of the questions for breast disease and 9% for maternity showed any statistically significant change. However, both surveys indicated precise areas where a change resulting from the introduction of the pathway could be linked to an increase in satisfaction. The clinical staff interviewed highlighted many positive features of the tool (26/40 comments). The most frequently cited favourable comment was its ability to make staff focus on the clinical care they were providing and how this could be improved. It also highlighted some areas for concern, in particular the introduction of pathway documentation.