What is 'continuity of care'?

J Health Serv Res Policy. 2006 Oct;11(4):248-50. doi: 10.1258/135581906778476490.


Continuity of care is concerned with the quality of care over time. There are two important perspectives on this. Traditionally, continuity of care is idealized in the patient's experience of a 'continuous caring relationship' with an identified health care professional. For providers in vertically integrated systems of care, the contrasting ideal is the delivery of a 'seamless service' through integration, coordination and the sharing of information between different providers. As patients' health care needs can now only rarely be met by a single professional, multidimensional models of continuity have had to be developed to accommodate the possibility of achieving both ideals simultaneously. Continuity of care may, therefore, be viewed from the perspective of either patient or provider. Continuity in the experience of care relates conceptually to patients' satisfaction with both the interpersonal aspects of care and the coordination of that care. Experienced continuity may be valued in its own right. In contrast, continuity in the delivery of care cannot be evaluated solely through patients' experiences, and is related to important aspects of services such as 'case-management' and 'multidisciplinary team working'. From a provider perspective, the focus is on new models of service delivery and improved patient outcomes. A full consideration of continuity of care should therefore cover both of these distinct perspectives, exploring how these come together to enhance the patient-centredness of care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Continuity of Patient Care*
  • Humans
  • Quality of Health Care
  • United Kingdom