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Open Access Highly Accessed Correspondence

A systematic approach to the planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of integrated health services

Heidi W Reynolds* and Elizabeth G Sutherland

Author Affiliations

MEASURE Evaluation, Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 206 W. Franklin Street, 2nd Floor, CB 8120, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, USA

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BMC Health Services Research 2013, 13:168  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-168

Published: 6 May 2013

Abstract

Background

Because of the current emphasis and enthusiasm focused on integration of health systems, there is a risk of piling resources into integrated strategies without the necessary systems in place to monitor their progress adequately or to measure impact, and to learn from these efforts. The rush to intervene without adequate monitoring and evaluation will continue to result in a weak evidence base for decision making and resource allocation. Program planning and implementation are inextricability linked to monitoring and evaluation. Country level guidance is needed to identify country-specific integrated strategies, thereby increasing country ownership.

Discussion

This paper focuses on integrated health services but takes into account how health services are influenced by the health system, managed by programs, and made up of interventions. We apply the principles in existing comprehensive monitoring and evaluation (M&E) frameworks in order to outline a systematic approach to the M&E of integration for the country level. The approach is grounded by first defining the country-specific health challenges that integration is intended to affect. Priority points of contact for care can directly influence health, and essential packages of integration for all major client presentations need to be defined. Logic models are necessary to outline the plausible causal pathways and define the inputs, roles and responsibilities, indicators, and data sources across the health system. Finally, we recommend improvements to the health information system and in data use to ensure that data are available to inform decisions, because changes in the M&E function to make it more integrated will also facilitate integration in the service delivery, planning, and governance components.

Summary

This approach described in the paper is the ideal, but its application at the country level can help reveal gaps and guide decisions related to what health services to prioritize for integration, help plan for how to strengthen systems to support health services, and ultimately establish an evidence base to inform investments in health care. More experience is needed to understand if the approach is feasible; similarly, more emphasis is needed on documenting the process of designing and implemented integrated interventions at the national level.

Keywords:
Integration; Health services; Monitoring and evaluation; Developing countries; Conceptual framework