Care pathways (CPWs) are complex interventions that have the potential to reduce treatment errors and optimize patient outcomes by translating evidence into local practice. To design an optimal implementation strategy, potential barriers to and facilitators of implementation must be considered. The objective of this systematic review is to identify barriers to and facilitators of the implementation of CPWs in primary care (PC).
A systematic search via Cochrane Library, CINAHL, and MEDLINE via PubMed supplemented by hand searches and citation tracing was carried out. We considered articles reporting on CPWs targeting patients at least 65 years of age in outpatient settings that were written in the English or German language and were published between 2007 and 2019. We considered (non-)randomized controlled trials, controlled before-after studies, interrupted time series studies (main project reports) as well as associated process evaluation reports of either methodology. Two independent researchers performed the study selection; the data extraction and critical appraisal were duplicated until the point of perfect agreement between the two reviewers. Due to the heterogeneity of the included studies, a narrative synthesis was performed.
Fourteen studies (seven main project reports and seven process evaluation reports) of the identified 8154 records in the search update were included in the synthesis. The structure and content of the interventions as well as the quality of evidence of the studies varied. The identified barriers and facilitators were classified using the Context and Implementation of Complex Interventions framework. The identified barriers were inadequate staffing, insufficient education, lack of financial compensation, low motivation and lack of time. Adequate skills and knowledge through training activities for health professionals, good multi-disciplinary communication and individual tailored interventions were identified as facilitators.
In the implementation of CPWs in PC, a multitude of barriers and facilitators must be considered, and most of them can be modified through the careful design of intervention and implementation strategies. Furthermore, process evaluations must become a standard component of implementing CPWs to enable other projects to build upon previous experience.
PROSPERO 2018 CRD42018087689.