Coordinated care: What does that really mean?
The healthcare system in Australia is struggling to meet the healthcare needs of the ageing population. The pressure on health systems to solve these complex problems can create a sense of urgency to find a panacea in concepts such as coordinated care. A common understanding of coordinated care is often assumed when, in reality, the concept is neither clearly defined nor completely understood. The purpose of this review was to examine and identify the attributes of coordinated care to facilitate a shared definition of this concept within the primary care context. The study was a conceptual review of the literature relating to coordinated care in chronic disease. Two key electronic databases (MEDLINE and CINAHL) were searched using terms generated by a panel of primary healthcare practitioners and researchers. Following the application of inclusion and exclusion criteria, 20 studies were selected from an initial pool of 128. Several key attributes of coordinated care were identified together with a definitional statement. Coordinated care in the primary healthcare setting can be broadly defined as the delivery of systematic, responsive and supportive care to people with complex chronic care needs. It relies heavily on complicated concepts such as partnerships, networking, collaboration, knowledge transfer, person-centred practice and self-management support. The expression of these concepts in the literature was relatively superficial, with little discussion of the actual practices that might be implemented in order to enact them. This paper provides a framework of coordinated care within the primary care setting that can guide future work around implementation and evaluation.