Do pathways lead to better organized care processes?


Kris Vanhaecht
Center for Health Services and Nursing Research
Catholic University Leuven
Kapucijnenvoer 35, 4th floor
B-3000 Leuven


Aim  Clinical pathways are used worldwide to (re)organize care processes. They are used by multidisciplinary teams in their search towards excellence. The goal of this study is (1) to assess differences in the perception of health professionals in their evaluation of care processes; (2) to assess whether care processes supported by clinical pathways perform better than those not supported by clinical pathways; and (3) to assess the sensitivity and specificity of clinical pathways in predicting well-organized care processes.

Methods  A cross-sectional, multi-centre study was performed comprising 309 healthcare workers, 103 care processes and 49 hospitals. The Care Process Self Evaluation Tool (CPSET) was used to score care processes according to their organization. Processes were also scored according to the level of pathway implementation.

Results  (1) Significant differences between healthcare professionals were found on two of five CPSET subscales. No significant differences were found among the overall CPSET scores. (2) Care processes supported by pathways had the highest CPSET scores. Nonetheless, continuous follow-up is necessary. (3) Clinical pathways have significant impact on the coordination of care (odds ratio: 8.92), follow-up (odds ratio: 6.65) and overall CPSET score (odds ratio: 4.26). Clinical pathways have a positive impact on the organization of care processes. Not all pathways have high CPSET scores, and care processes without pathways can also be well organized. Continuous evaluation is essential. This is the first study to analyse how healthcare teams perceive the organization of care processes with respect to clinical pathways. Our findings are important for other quality improvement methods.