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Open Access Research article

Improving long-term care provision: towards demand-based care by means of modularity

Carolien de Blok1*, Katrien Luijkx2, Bert Meijboom23 and Jos Schols24

Author Affiliations

1 Amsterdam Centre for Service Innovation (AMSI), University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

2 Department of Tranzo, Tilburg University, the Netherlands

3 Department of Organization and Strategy, Tilburg University, the Netherlands

4 Department of General Practice, Maastricht University, the Netherlands

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BMC Health Services Research 2010, 10:278  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-278

Published: 21 September 2010

Abstract

Background

As in most fields of health care, societal and political changes encourage suppliers of long-term care to put their clients at the center of care and service provision and become more responsive towards client needs and requirements. However, the diverse, multiple and dynamic nature of demand for long-term care complicates the movement towards demand-based care provision. This paper aims to advance long-term care practice and, to that end, examines the application of modularity. This concept is recognized in a wide range of product and service settings for its ability to design demand-based products and processes.

Methods

Starting from the basic dimensions of modularity, we use qualitative research to explore the use and application of modularity principles in the current working practices and processes of four organizations in the field of long-term care for the elderly. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 38 key informants and triangulated with document research and observation. Data was analyzed thematically by means of coding and subsequent exploration of patterns. Data analysis was facilitated by qualitative analysis software.

Results

Our data suggest that a modular setup of supply is employed in the arrangement of care and service supply and assists providers of long-term care in providing their clients with choice options and variation. In addition, modularization of the needs assessment and package specification process allows the case organizations to manage client involvement but still provide customized packages of care and services.

Conclusion

The adequate setup of an organization's supply and its specification phase activities are indispensible for long-term care providers who aim to do better in terms of quality and efficiency. Moreover, long-term care providers could benefit from joint provision of care and services by means of modular working teams. Based upon our findings, we are able to elaborate on how to further enable demand-based provision of long-term care by means of modularity.