An in-depth analysis of theoretical frameworks for the study of care coordination

Sabine Van Houdt, Jan Heyrman, Kris Vanhaecht, Walter Sermeus, Jan De Lepeleire


Introduction: Complex chronic conditions often require long-term care from various healthcare professionals. Thus, maintaining quality care requires care coordination. Concepts for the study of care coordination require clarification to develop, study and evaluate coordination strategies. In 2007, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality defined care coordination and proposed five theoretical frameworks for exploring care coordination. This study aimed to update current theoretical frameworks and clarify key concepts related to care coordination.

Methods: We performed a literature review to update existing theoretical frameworks. An in-depth analysis of these theoretical frameworks was conducted to formulate key concepts related to care coordination.

Results: Our literature review found seven previously unidentified theoretical frameworks for studying care coordination. The in-depth analysis identified fourteen key concepts that the theoretical frameworks addressed. These were ‘external factors’, ‘structure’, ‘tasks characteristics’, ‘cultural factors’, ‘knowledge and technology’, ‘need for coordination’, ‘administrative operational processes’, ‘exchange of information’, ‘goals’, ‘roles’, ‘quality of relationship’, ‘patient outcome’, ‘team outcome’, and ‘(inter)organizational outcome’.

Conclusion: These 14 interrelated key concepts provide a base to develop or choose a framework for studying care coordination. The relational coordination theory and the multi-level framework are interesting as these are the most comprehensive.


care coordination; organizational models (Mesh); theoretical models (Mesh); review (Mesh); coordination strategies

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