Measuring interpersonal continuity in high-frequency home healthcare services




To provide a method for assessing the degree of interpersonal continuity adapted to context and to measure and assess the degree of interpersonal continuity for long-term recipients dependent on daily home health care.


Interpersonal continuity is important to the quality of care for long-term dependents. In high-frequency home healthcare services where patients receive daily care from many nurses or other health personnel over time, interpersonal continuity may be difficult to attain.


A cross-sectional study with a descriptive design.


Information concerning 79 patients receiving long-term frequent care was collected during four weeks in a maximum variation sample of Norwegian municipalities, from January 2009–May 2010. We measured interpersonal continuity objectively using indices of dispersion and the next-day sequence of health personnel. For each measure, we computed the highest feasible level of continuity that could be attained in this home healthcare context given a standard shift plan. This level was then used as benchmark against which the actual level of continuity was assessed.


Patients received on average 51 visits from a mean of 17 different carers during four weeks. The results revealed a low degree of interpersonal continuity in practice, far below what was feasible according to the benchmarks.


High-frequency home health care was characterized by interpersonal discontinuity, but with potential for improvement. Objective measures of interpersonal continuity, when the benchmark is adapted to the context, are useful tools for planning and surveying continuity of care.