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Towards an integrated research design for studying integrated care

2014 Conference Presentation

Care integration Belgium

2 September 2015

Towards an integrated research design for studying integrated care

Ezra Dessers, K.U.Leuven, Belgium
Geert Van Hootegem, K.U.Leuven, Belgium
Steven Dhondt, K.U.Leuven, Belgium


Integrated care is seen as an important new method towards more demand-driven and costconscious health systems. In November 2013, a 4-year research project on integrated care in Flanders (Belgium) has been launched: “CORTEXS – Integrating Care”. The €3 million project focuses on long term care. This presentation provides an overview of the research design which the CORTEXS team has developed in order to gain further insight in the social innovation challenges of integrating care.

The development of the research design was challenging for three reasons. (1) CORTEXS strives to combine innovative basic research with a strategic utilisation of the research results. Integrating care as a social innovation indeed includes the social processes of innovation, such as co-creation and user involvement. For that reason, CORTEXS closely cooperates with over 30 stakeholders from seven major groups: care; cure; interest groups; policy; labor market; knowledge and education; and regional actors. Thus, apart from a theory-based perspective, the research design should also allow for an action-oriented approach. (2) Expertise on organization sciences, social innovation and (integrated) care development were combined in the research consortium. The research partners are: KU Leuven – Sociological Research; KU Leuven – Biomedical Ethics and Law: Ku Leuven – LUCAS – Care Research and Consultancy; TNO – Innovation Area Work & Employment; UHasselt – Patient Safety and Health Economics; Antwerp Management School; and UGent – Health Economics. While this combination of disciplines is expected to lead to substantial knowledge development opportunities, it requires the research design to be able to cope with a multidisciplinary approach. (3) The social innovation challenges of integrating care can be studied at various interlinked levels: at the individual level of client, informal caregivers and health professionals; at the (intra-) organizational level; at the level of inter-organisational care networks; and at the contextual level of funding and legislation. And across these levels, various dimensions of integrating care can be seen: clinical (coordination of care services), professional (coordination of services by professionals across various disciplines), organisational (coordination of services across different organisations), system (alignment of rules and policies), functional (coordination of support functions) and normative integration (sharing of mission and values within a system).

Although a single research project could never cover every detail of every possible dimension and level, the CORTEXS research design should at least be able to cope with multilevel and multimethod approaches. This presentation seeks to explain the CORTEXS research design, which was developed to integrate multiple disciplines, methods and levels of analysis, and to support both theory- and action-based research. In other words, the presentation will introduce an integrated research design for studying integrated care. It should however be noted that the major part of the implementation of the research design in actual empirical research will only start in the fall of 2014. The authors wish to make use of the session to exchange ideas with the participants and receive feedback on the proposed design. For more information see The research is financed by the Flemish Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology (IWT).

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