Background: Disease management programmes have been developed for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to facilitate the integration of care across healthcare settings. The purpose of the present study was to examine the experiences of COPD patients and their relatives of integrated care after implementation of a COPD disease management programme.
Methods: Seven focus groups and five individual interviews were held with 34 patients with severe or very severe COPD and two focus groups were held with eight of their relatives. Data were analysed using inductive content analysis.
Results: Four main categories of experiences of integrated care emerged: 1) a flexible system that provides access to appropriate healthcare and social services and furthers patient involvement; 2) the responsibility of health professionals to both take the initiative and follow up; 3) communication and providing information to patients and relatives; 4) coordination and professional cooperation. Most patients were satisfied with their care and raised few criticisms. However, patients with more unstable and severe disease tended to experience more problems.
Conclusions: Participant suggestions for optimizing the integration of healthcare included assigning patients a care coordinator, telehealth solutions for housebound patients and better information technology to support interprofessional cooperation. Further studies are needed to explore these and other possible solutions to problems with integrated care among COPD patients. A future effort in this field should be informed by detailed knowledge of the extent and relative importance of the identified problems. It should also be designed to address variable levels of severity of COPD and relevant comorbidities and to deliver care in ways appropriate to the respective healthcare setting. Future studies should also take health professionals' views into account so that interventions may be planned in the light of the experiences of all those involved in the treatment of COPD patients.