Objectives: To identify the types of strategy used to coordinate care within primary health care (PHC) and between PHC, health services and health-related services in Australia and other countries that have comparable health systems, and to describe what is known about their effectiveness; to review the implications for health policy and practice in Australia.
Methods: We conducted a systematic review of the literature (January 1995 to March 2006) relating to care coordination in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada and The Netherlands. Our review was supplemented by consultations with academic experts and policymakers.
Results: Six types of strategy were identified at patient/provider level, falling into two groups: (i) communication and support for providers and patients, and (ii) structural arrangements to support coordination. These were broadly consistent with existing typologies. All were associated with improved health and/or patient satisfaction outcomes in more than 50% of studies, and interventions using multiple strategies were more successful than those using single strategies.
Conclusions: The largely incremental approach to improving coordination of care in Australia has involved a broad range of strategy types but has also perpetuated existing structural problems. Reforms in governance, funding and patient registration in primary health care would provide a stronger base for effective care coordination.