The 7-phase method to design, implement and evaluate care pathways

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Kris Vanhaecht
Eva Van Gerven
Svin Deneckere
Cathy Lodewijckx
Ingrid Janssen
Ruben van Zelm
Paulo Boto
Rita Mendes
Massimiliano Panella
Eva Biringer
Walter Sermeus


Background: Care pathways, also known as clinical pathways, are used all over the world to implement and monitor patient-centered care processes in a transparent way. Care pathways are defined as a complex intervention, but there is a lack of information on how to design care pathways.Method: Based on the experience of the Belgian Dutch Clinical Pathway Network, a 7-phase method to develop, implement, evaluate and continuously follow up a care pathway was designed. An international expert panel of the European Pathway Association validated this method.Findings: The 7-phase method can be useful for in-hospital, primary care and cross boundary projects to improve the quality of healthcare processes. This 7-phase method includes a screening phase, a project management phase, a diagnostic- and objectification phase, a development phase, an implementation phase, an evaluation phase and a continuous follow-up phase.Conclusion: This method can offer support to multidisciplinary teams (re)designing and implementing safe, efficient, effective, person-centered, timely, equitable, continuous and integrated care processes. However, the method is no guarantee to success. The key to success is the collaboration and critical attitude of the entire multidisciplinary team when implementing pathways.Originality: This paper is the first publication defining the detailed steps to design care pathways. The content is based on international experience and discussions within an expert panel. The method can support clinicians and healthcare managers in re-designing their processes of care.

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