A care pathway, also known as a clinical pathway, is a patient-centered plan that provides medical and related services to patients with specific diseases. These plans are based on evidence and are used to optimize outcomes in both acute care settings (e.g., EDs) and homecare. They aim to reduce variability and improve quality of care through the systematic adherence at all times to treatment guidelines. These guidelines are uniform across healthcare settings.
Integrated medicine sees care pathways as an integral component of the overall process for patient care. These documents can be used to provide information, indicate quality care and reduce treatment variation among providers. They are also a key component of value-based payment systems and are being increasingly adopted by cancer centers to promote efficient, high-quality patient care.
Pathway development involves a multidisciplinary team made up of doctors and other healthcare professionals. This team is responsible to select the care procedures that should be included in the path. It ensures that they are evidence-based and appropriate for the needs of the patients who are being treated. They then decide the sequence of tasks to be performed in the care of the patient by different professionals. This is often done using a computer-based tool that enables the different professionals to access the path and make decisions based on evidence.
The Care Pathways vs Integrated Medicine is a document that records the steps taken to care for the patient, including the assessment tools used, diagnosis information and the recommended referrals or treatments and next steps. It is a record that can stand as the final legal document of a patient’s care throughout the entire course of the pathway.
Implementing a care pathway involves many stakeholders and a variety different technology solutions. To ensure the success of a pathways project, stakeholders must be aligned, have a clear vision and strategy, and possess the skills needed to manage the pathway. Stakeholders must also have the resources to meet all milestones and goals within the given timeline.
Physicians are a key stakeholder for care pathway development and implementation. Their involvement is increasing. The importance of clinical considerations is evident in the role of the physician, as well as their willingness to make appropriate treatment choices for the patient. The physician is also seen to be a key gatekeeper in expanding and enhancing access.
Payers and vendors are also key stakeholders in the development of care pathways. Pathway solutions are a popular choice for payers because they provide greater predictability and value to their members. They have incentives for encouraging the use of the pathway options offered by their network providers. In some cases, they may also try to limit the need for prior authorization for pathway-related procedure. Additionally, they have incentives to improve the adherence of their members to the selected pathways. Despite these advantages, there are still challenges to care pathways and their use. These include wide variation in care pathway development and implementation methods, and a lack of industry-wide best practices and standards for evaluating them.
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