Background: Despite several countrywide attempts to strengthen and standardise the primary healthcare (PHC) system, Greece is still lacking a sustainable, policy-based model of integrated services. The aim of our study was to identify operational integration levels through existing patient care pathways and to recommend an alternative PHC model for optimum integration. Methods: The study was part of a large state-funded project, which included 22 randomly selected PHC units located across two health regions of Greece. Dimensions of operational integration in PHC were selected based on the work of Kringos and colleagues. A five-point Likert-type scale, coupled with an algorithm, was used to capture and transform theoretical framework features into measurable attributes. PHC services were grouped under the main categories of chronic care, urgent/acute care, preventive care, and home care. A web-based platform was used to assess patient pathways, evaluate integration levels and propose improvement actions. Analysis relied on a comparison of actual pathways versus optimal, the latter ones having been identified through literature review. Results: Overall integration varied among units. The majority (57%) of units corresponded to a basic level. Integration by type of PHC service ranged as follows: basic (86%) or poor (14%) for chronic care units, poor (78%) or basic (22%) for urgent/acute care units, basic (50%) for preventive care units, and partial or basic (50%) for home care units. The actual pathways across all four categories of PHC services differed from those captured in the optimum integration model. Certain similarities were observed in the operational flows between chronic care management and urgent/acute care management. Such similarities were present at the highest level of abstraction, but also in common steps along the operational flows. Conclusions: Existing patient care pathways were mapped and analysed, and recommendations for an optimum integration PHC model were made. The developed web platform, based on a strong theoretical framework, can serve as a robust integration evaluation tool. This could be a first step towards restructuring and improving PHC services within a financially restrained environment.
- Clinical pathways
- Integrated care
- Operational integration
- Primary health care
- Process assessment (healthcare)
- Quality indicators (healthcare)