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A realist evaluation of local networks designed to achieve more integrated care
journal contributionposted on 23.03.2021, 03:35 by Lesley Middleton, H Rea, Megan Pledger, Jacqueline Cumming
© 2019 The Author(s). Introduction: Not surprisingly given their multi-component nature, initiatives to improve integrated care often evolve to find the best way to bring about change. This paper provides an example of how an evaluation evolved alongside such an initiative designed to better integrate care across primary, community and hospital services in South Auckland, New Zealand. Theory and methods: Using the explanatory power of a realist evaluative approach, theories of new ways of working that might be prompted by the initiative were explored in: (i) interviews with stakeholders in 2012 and 2015, (ii) online surveys of general practices and local care organisations, and (iii) a purposive sample of ten general practices. Results: The results highlighted the institutional contexts that led to difficulties in implementing population health initiatives. They also revealed that changes in work practices focussed mostly on activities that improved the coordination of care for individuals at risk of hospital admissions. Discussion: Multi-component complex interventions can vary in their delivery and be vulnerable to one or more components not being implemented as originally intended. In the case of this intervention, the move towards strengthening local relationships arose when contractual arrangements stalled. Realist evaluative approaches offer a logic that helps unpick the complexity of the relationships and politics in play, and uncover the assumptions made by those developing, implementing and assessing health service changes. Conclusion: Given the multi-component and evolving nature of initiatives seeking to better integrate care, the realist evaluative emphasis on surfacing early the theories to explain how change is expected to occur helps overcome the challenge of evaluating “a moving targetA..