Identifying organisational principles and management practices important to the quality of health care services for chronic conditions

Dan Med J. 2012 Feb;59(2):B4387.


Background: The quality of health care services offered to people suffering from chronic diseases often fails to meet standards in Denmark or internationally. The population consisting of people with chronic diseases is large and accounts for about 70% of total health care expenses. Given that resources are limited, it is necessary to identify efficient methods to improve the quality of care. Comparing health care systems is a well-known method for identifying new knowledge regarding, for instance, organisational methods and principles. Kaiser Permanente (KP), an integrated health care delivery system in the U.S., is recognized as providing high-quality chronic care; to some extent, this is due to KP's implementation of the chronic care model (CCM). This model recommends a range of evidence-based management practices that support the implementation of evidence-based medicine. However, it is not clear which management practices in the CCM are most efficient and in what combinations. In addition, financial incentives and public reporting of performance are often considered effective at improving the quality of health care services, but this has not yet been definitively proved.

Aim: The aim of this dissertation is to describe the effect of determinants, such as organisational structures and management practices including two selected incentives, on the quality of care in chronic diseases. The dissertation is based on four studies with the following purposes: 1) macro- or healthcare system-level identification of organisational structures and principles that affect the quality of health care services, based on a comparison of KP and the Danish health care system; 2) meso- or organisation-level identification of management practices with positive effects on screening rates for hemoglobin A1c and lipid profile in diabetes; 3) evaluation of the effect of the CCM on quality of health care services and continuity of care in a Danish setting; 4) micro- or practice-level evaluation of the effect of financial incentives and public performance reporting on the behaviour of professionals and quality of care.

Methods and results: Using secondary data, KP and the Danish health care system were compared in terms of six central dimensions: population, health care professionals, health care organisations, utilization patterns, quality measurements, and costs. Differences existed between the two systems on all dimensions, complicating the interpretation of findings. For instance, observed differences might be due to similar tendencies in the two health care systems that were observed at different times, rather than true structural differences. The expenses in the two health care systems were corrected for differences in the populations served and the purchasing power of currencies. However, no validated methods existed to correct for observed differences in case-mixes of chronic conditions. Data from a population of about half a million patients with diabetes in a large U.S. integrated health care delivery system affiliated with 41 medical centers employing 15 different CCM management practices was the basis for identifying effective management practices. Through the use of statistical modelling, the management practice of provider alerts was identified as most effective for promoting screening for hemoglobin A1c and lipid profile. The CCM was used as a framework for implementing four rehabilitation programs. The model promoted continuity of care and quality of health care services. New management practices were developed in the study, and known practices were further developed. However, the observational nature of the study limited the generalisability of the findings. In a structured literature survey focusing on the effect of financial incentives and public performance reporting on the quality of health care services, few studies documenting an effect were identified. The results varied, and important program aspects or contextual variables were often omitted. A model describing the effects of the two incentives on the conduct of health care professionals and their interaction with the organisations in which they serve was developed.

Conclusion: On the macro-level, organisational differences between KP and the Danish health care system related to the primary care sectors, utilization patterns, and the quality of health care services, supporting a hypothesis that KP's focus on primary care is a beneficial form of organisation. On the meso-level, use of the CCM improved quality of health care services, but the effect is complicated and context dependent. The CCM was found to be useful in the Danish health care system, and the model was also further developed in a Danish setting. On the micro-level, quality was improved by financial incentives and disclosure in a complex interplay with other central factors in the work environment of health care professionals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease / therapy*
  • Delivery of Health Care / economics
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Denmark
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care
  • Quality of Health Care*