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What Makes Integration of Chronic Care so Difficult? A Macro-Level Analysis of Barriers and Facilitators in Belgium.

Authors:

Katrien Danhieux ,

University Of Antwerp, BE
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Monika Martens,

University Of Antwerp, BE
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Elien Colman,

University Of Antwerp, BE
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Edwin Wouters,

University Of Antwerp, BE
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Roy Remmen,

University Of Antwerp, BE
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Josefien Van Olmen,

University Of Antwerp, BE
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Sibyl Anthierens

University Of Antwerp, BE
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Abstract

Introduction: Although many countries have been implementing integrated care, the scale-up remains difficult.  Macro-level system barriers play an important role. This is also the case in Belgium, which has a complex governing system where both the federal and federated governments have responsibilities concerning health care. By selecting three key policies, which have implemented integrated care in Belgium over the last 10 years (the federal care trajectory for diabetes, the joint plan for the chronically ill and the reform of primary care in Flanders), we aim to go beyond the identification of their specific barriers and facilitators to obtain an overarching generic view.

Methods: 27 participants were purposefully selected, to include all important stakeholders involved on the macro-level in chronic care in Belgium. Policymakers, public administrators, finance stakeholders, provider organisations, user and patient groups and scientific stakeholders were included. Semi-structured interviews were guided by a timeline of policies and performed by two researchers. The main topics of the interview guide were: stakeholder role, their understanding of integrated chronic care, and the barriers to and facilitators of the development and implementation of integrated care policies. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and an inductive thematic analysis was performed and repeatedly discussed within the team.

Results: Stakeholders had diverse interpretations of integrated care, but agreed that implementation of integrated care in Belgium is still suboptimal. Barriers and facilitators were identified on both health care and policy level. A major barriers is the fee-for-service system, which does not stimulate cooperation nor quality of care. Within the topic of data sharing, many strategies have been formulated, but the implementation lacks, which hinders again cooperation. A last major barrier is the fragmentation of responsibilities between different levels of government. It leads to confusion, but mainly it hinders integrated care as different policy-makers head in different directions and so it is difficult to align plans, especially on the long term. Remarkably, these factors strongly interact.

Conclusion: The scale-up of integrated care is influenced by multiple factors, which interact with each other. The preparedness to change at both the policy level and health care level will be key to triggering a transformation leading to integrated care. However, important barriers, are hindering a much needed change to the entire Belgian health care system and a shift towards integrated care. 

Implications: This paper highlights the importance of homogenization of responsibilities of governments regarding integrated care and the interdependency of policy and health care system factors. A whole system change is needed instead of the current Belgian model of prolonged search for common ground between conflicting opinions. A focus on the financing system seems important in this regard. Political commitment and citizen participation will be crucial.

 

How to Cite: Danhieux K, Martens M, Colman E, Wouters E, Remmen R, Van Olmen J, et al.. What Makes Integration of Chronic Care so Difficult? A Macro-Level Analysis of Barriers and Facilitators in Belgium.. International Journal of Integrated Care. 2022;22(S3):102. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/ijic.ICIC22300
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Published on 04 Nov 2022.

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