Complex adaptive chronic care - Typologies of patient journey: A case study

Carmel M. Martin, Deirdre Grady, Susan Deaconking, Catherine McMahon, Atieh Zarabzadeh, Brendan O'Shea

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18 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale Complex adaptive chronic care (CACC) is a framework based upon complex adaptive systems' theory developed to address different stages in the patient journey in chronic illness. Simple, complicated, complex and chaotic phases are proposed as diagnostic types. Aims To categorize phases of the patient journey and evaluate their utility as diagnostic typologies. Methods A qualitative case study of two cohorts, identified as being at risk of avoidable hospitalization: 12 patients monitored to establish typologies, followed by 46 patients to validate the typologies. Patients were recruited from a general practitioner out-of-hours service. Self-rated health, medical and psychological health, social support, environmental concerns, medication adherence and health service use were monitored with phone calls made 3-5 times per week for an average of 4 weeks. Analysis techniques included frequency distributions, coding and categorization of patients' longitudinal data using a CACC framework. Findings Twelve and 46 patients, mean age 69 years, were monitored for average of 28 days in cohorts 1 and 2 respectively. Cohorts 1 and 2 patient journeys were categorized as being: stable complex 66.66% vs. 67.4%, unstable complex 25% vs. 26.08% and unstable complex chaotic 8.3% vs. 6.52% respectively. An average of 0.48, 0.75 and 2 interventions per person were provided in the stable, unstable and chaotic journeys. Instability was related to complex interactions between illness, social support, environment, as well as medication and medical care issues. Conclusion Longitudinal patient journeys encompass different phases with characteristic dynamics and are likely to require different interventions and strategies - thus being 'adaptive' to the changing complex dynamics of the patient's illness and care needs. CACC journey types provide a clinical tool for health professionals to focus time and care interventions in response to patterns of instability in multiple domains in chronic illness care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)520-524
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • case management
  • chronic illness
  • complex adaptive systems
  • diagnostic typologies
  • health services research
  • life course analysis
  • observations of daily living
  • patient journey
  • primary care

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