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Keywords:

  • integrated care pathway;
  • documentation;
  • multidisciplinary;
  • fractured neck of femur;
  • variance

This paper reports on the evaluation stage of an action research project on interprofessional collaboration in discharge planning. Findings from interviews with health care professionals working in the acute sector had revealed concerns about discharge planning and multidisciplinary teamwork. In the United Kingdom the National Health Service (NHS) Plan has reinforced the need for an integrated approach to health care. Effective health care integration requires effective communication, teamwork and the commitment to deliver integrated care. Integrated documentation is a key strategy for enhancing interprofessional collaboration and reducing the isolation of professionals, and has been successfully implemented in a range of health care settings. Presented with the concerns about the collaborative process in discharge planning, an action research strategy was chosen to bring about change in an orthopaedic ward in one London teaching hospital. This paper will evaluate the implementation of an integrated care pathway with fractured neck of femurs in one London teaching hospital. Care pathways facilitate the management of defined patient groups using interdisciplinary plans of care. The emphasis will be on understanding whether integrated care pathways enhance and develop interprofessional collaboration and enable effective information access and flow across the professions and the organization. The criteria for evaluation, forming the hypotheses of the study, were that interprofessional nonverbal and verbal communication would be enhanced and that interprofesisonal collaboration would increase. Methods of evaluation used were: (i) stakeholder interviews, (ii) interprofessional audit and (iii) analysis of the variances from the integrated care pathway. The evaluation revealed that although integrated care pathways led to improved outcomes for the health care trust there was little evidence to suggest that interprofessional relationships and communication were enhanced. Furthermore, key factors in discharge delays appeared to be organizational rather than professional.