Reconstructing continuity of care in mental health services: a multilevel conceptual framework

André Wierdsma, Niels Mulder, Sanne Vries, S Sytema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademic

43 Citations (Scopus)


Continuity of mental health care is a key issue in the organization and evaluation of services for patients with disabling chronic conditions. Over many years, health services researchers have been exploring the conceptual boundaries between continuity of care and other service characteristics. On the basis of papers published over the past decade, we argue that while conceptual consensus is growing, there is room to improve continuity measures, and the development of practical interventions is still at an early stage. There is growing consensus that continuity of care is a multidimensional concept. We identified four core elements: continuous care; care of an individual patient; cross-boundary care; and care recorded objectively. These elements help clarify conceptual boundaries, and incorporate measurement guidelines. With reference to these core elements, we define types of continuity of care, including informational continuity, management continuity, relational continuity and contact continuity. In order to improve continuity of care, better understanding is needed of the complex inter-relationship of core elements and types of continuity. A multilevel perspective on continuity of care can guide research to develop and evaluate new interventions. Achieving continuity of care is hindered by the lack of standard measures and administrative data appropriate to assessing continuity. Account should be taken not only of the nature of the patient population, but also of local conditions. To address these topics and identify best practices, research should be multidisciplinary and take a comparative, naturalistic form.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)52-57
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Health Services Research & Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Research programs

  • EMC OR-01-58-01

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