Why doesn’t integrated care work? Using Strong Structuration Theory to explain the limitations of an English case
Hughes G., Shaw SE., Greenhalgh T.
Integrated care is an aim and a method for organising health and care services, particularly for older people and those with chronic conditions. Policy expects that integrated care programmes will provide person-centred coordinated care which will improve patient or client experience, enable population health, prevent hospital admissions and thereby reduce costs. However, empirical evaluations of integrated care interventions have shown disappointing results. We analysed an in-depth case study using Strong Structuration Theory to ask: how and why have efforts to integrate health and social care failed to produce desired outcomes? In our case, integrated case management and the creation of cost-saving plans were dominant practices. People working in health and social care recursively produced a structure of integrated care: a recognised set of resources created by collective activities. Integrated care, intended to help patients manage their long-term conditions and avoid hospital admission, was only a small part of the complex network that sustained patients at home. The structures of integrated care were unable to compensate for changes in patients’ health. The result was that patients’ experiences remained largely unaffected and hospital admissions were not easily avoided.