Author(s): Egan M, Byrne K, Jaglal S, Stolee P, Wells J
Increasingly, jurisdictions are adopting universal assessment procedures and information technology to aid in healthcare data collection and care planning. Before their potential can be realised, a better understanding is needed of how these systems can best be used to support clinical practice. We investigated the decision-making process and information needs of home-care case managers in Ontario, Canada, prior to the widespread use of universal assessment, with a view of determining how universal assessment and information technology could best support this work. Three focus groups and two individual interviews were conducted; questioning focused on decision-making in the post-acute care of individuals recovering from a hip fracture. We found that case managers' decisional process was one of a clinician-broker, combining clinical expertise and information about local services to support patient goals within the context of limited resources. This process represented expert decision-making, and the case managers valued their ability to carry out non-standardised interviews and override system directives when they noted that data may be misleading. Clear information needs were found in four areas: services available outside of their regions, patient medical information, patient pre-morbid functional status and partner/spouse health and functional status. Implications for the use of universal assessment are discussed. Recommendations are made for further research to determine the impact of universal assessment and information technology on the process and outcome of home-care case manager decision-making.