A nurse-led interdisciplinary primary care approach to prevent disability among community-dwelling frail older people: a large-scale process evaluation

Silke F Metzelthin, Ramon Daniëls, Erik van Rossum, Karen Cox, Herbert Habets, Luc P de Witte, Gertrudis I J M Kempen
International Journal of Nursing Studies 2013, 50 (9): 1184-96

BACKGROUND: The complex healthcare needs of frail older people and their increased risk of disability require an integrated and proactive approach. In the Netherlands, an interdisciplinary primary care approach has recently been developed, involving individualized assessment and interventions (tailor-made care), case management and long-term follow-up. The practice nurse as part of a general practice is case manager and plans, organizes and monitors the care process and facilitates cooperation between professionals. The approach has shown positive indications regarding its feasibility in a small pilot, but its implementation on a large scale had not hitherto been investigated.

OBJECTIVES: To examine the extent to which the interdisciplinary care approach is implemented as planned and to gain insight into healthcare professionals' and frail older people's experiences regarding the benefits, burden, stimulating factors and barriers.

DESIGN: A process evaluation was conducted using a mixed methods design.

SETTINGS: Six GP practices in the south of the Netherlands.

PARTICIPANTS: Practice nurses (n=7), GPs (n=12), occupational therapists (n=6) and physical therapists (n=20) participated in the process evaluation. Furthermore, 194 community-dwelling frail older people (≥ 70 years) were included using the Groningen Frailty Indicator. People who were terminally ill, were confined to bed, had severe cognitive or psychological impairments or were unable to communicate in Dutch were excluded.

METHODS: Quantitative data (logbooks and evaluation forms) were collected from all the participating frail older people and 13 semi-structured interviews with a selection of them were conducted. In addition, data from healthcare professionals were collected through 12 semi-structured interviews and four focus group discussions.

RESULTS: Although some parts of the protocol were insufficiently executed, healthcare professionals and frail older people were satisfied with the care approach, as it provided a useful structure for the delivery of geriatric primary care and increased the attention to preventive treatment. Frail older people felt acknowledged by healthcare professionals and experienced support in handling their problems and fulfilling their wishes.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings of the study revealed several positive aspects of the interdisciplinary primary care approach. Given its complexity, the implementation of the nurse-led interdisciplinary care approach is challenging and some parts of the protocol need special attention.

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