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Definition and conceptualization of the patient-centered care pathway, a proposed integrative framework for consensus: a Concept analysis and systematic review



Confusion exists over the definition of the care pathway concept and existing conceptual frameworks contain various inadequacies which have led to implementation difficulties. In the current global context of rapidly changing health care systems, there is great need for a standardized definition and integrative framework that can guide implementation. This study aims to propose an accurate and up-to-date definition of care pathway and an integrative conceptual framework.


An innovative hybrid method combining systematic review, concept analysis and bibliometric analysis was undertaken to summarize qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method studies. Databases searched were PubMed, Embase and ABI/Inform. Methodological quality of included studies was then assessed.


Forty-four studies met the inclusion criteria. Using concept analysis, we developed a fine-grained understanding, an integrative conceptual framework, and an up-to-date definition of patient-centered care pathway by proposing 28 subcategories grouped into seven attributes. This conceptual framework considers both operational and social realities and supports the improvement and sustainable transformation of clinical, administrative, and organizational practices for the benefit of patients and caregivers, while considering professional experience, organizational constraints, and social dynamics. The proposed attributes of a fluid and effective pathway are (i) the centricity of patients and caregivers, (ii) the positioning of professional actors involved in the care pathway, (iii) the operation management through the care delivery process, (iv) the particularities of coordination structures, (v) the structural context of the system and organizations, (vi) the role of the information system and data management and (vii) the advent of the learning system. Antecedents are presented as key success factors of pathway implementation. By using the consequences and empirical referents, such as outcomes and evidence of care pathway interventions, we went beyond the single theoretical aim, proposing the application of the conceptual framework to healthcare management.


This study has developed an up-to-date definition of patient-centered care pathway and an integrative conceptual framework. Our framework encompasses 28 subcategories grouped into seven attributes that should be considered in complex care pathway intervention. The formulation of these attributes, antecedents as success factors and consequences as potential outcomes, allows the operationalization of this model for any pathway in any context.

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Journal Article
Gartner J
Abasse KS
Bergeron F
Landa P
Lemaire C
Côté A

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