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01.12.2017 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

BMC Health Services Research 1/2017

Doctors’ opinion on the contribution of coordination mechanisms to improving clinical coordination between primary and outpatient secondary care in the Catalan national health system

BMC Health Services Research > Ausgabe 1/2017
Marta-Beatriz Aller, Ingrid Vargas, Jordi Coderch, Maria-Luisa Vázquez
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12913-017-2690-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Clinical coordination is considered a health policy priority as its absence can lead to poor quality of care and inefficiency. A key challenge is to identify which strategies should be implemented to improve coordination. The aim is to analyse doctors’ opinions on the contribution of mechanisms to improving clinical coordination between primary and outpatient secondary care and the factors influencing their use.


A qualitative descriptive study in three healthcare networks of the Catalan national health system. A two-stage theoretical sample was designed: in the first stage, networks with different management models were selected; in the second, primary care (n = 26) and secondary care (n = 24) doctors. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews. Final sample size was reached by saturation. A thematic content analysis was conducted, segmented by network and care level.


With few differences across networks, doctors identified similar mechanisms contributing to clinical coordination: 1) shared EMR facilitating clinical information transfer and uptake; 2) mechanisms enabling problem-solving communication and agreement on clinical approaches, which varied across networks (joint clinical case conferences, which also promote mutual knowledge and training of primary care doctors; virtual consultations through EMR and email); and 3) referral protocols and use of the telephone facilitating access to secondary care after referrals. Doctors identified organizational (insufficient time, incompatible timetables, design of mechanisms) and professional factors (knowing each other, attitude towards collaboration, concerns over misdiagnosis) that influence the use of mechanisms.


Mechanisms that most contribute to clinical coordination are feedback mechanisms, that is those based on mutual adjustment, that allow doctors to exchange information and communicate. Their use might be enhanced by focusing on adequate working conditions, mechanism design and creating conditions that promote mutual knowledge and positive attitudes towards collaboration.
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