The tracer methodology: a way of integrating the patient’s voice to optimize care pathways!

Published on 10 February 2023 Read 25 min

In addition to developing effective drugs, healthcare manufacturers must promote access to these drugs and ensure their proper use by patients. Care pathway optimization projects help to meet these challenges, particularly for complex patient pathways involving numerous players. Today, while pharmaceutical companies and physicians take part in these optimization projects, patients are very little involved, for example, in issues related to well-being, quality of life or the psychological, social or financial impact of the disease. However, the perception of patients on the fluidity of care and possible blockages is complementary to that of physicians, for example, on topics such as the psychological impact of the disease, the financial impact, acceptance, etc… Convinced of the importance of integrating the patient’s voice in the optimization of care pathways, Alcimed uses different methodologies in its optimization projects, such as listening to social networks, defining emotional paths or the “patient tracer” methodology inspired by the framework defined by the French High Authority for Health (HAS). Today, Alcimed comes back on the implementation of the tracer methodology, as well as its interest for health professionals and industrialists.

What is the purpose of the tracer methodology in healthcare?

The “patient tracer” method is one of the methods presented by the French National Authority for Health (HAS) to evaluate the quality of care provided to a patient. This qualitative method aims to identify, in a retrospective way, the differences between the real practices of care, the care systems reference practices and the perceptions of the healthcare professionals and the patients, from the beginning to the end of the hospital care[1].

Tracer methodology, a new vision on the care quality

Alcimed implements tracer methodology through 4 main steps, which allow the identification of areas for improvement in the care pathway, while including patients:

  • Identification of a patient representative of the care path. These patients must have a clinical profile and a patient pathway that is representative of the issues associated with managing the disease.
  • Discussion with the patient, family members, and caregivers: the purpose of this discussion is to:
    • clarify the steps experienced by the patient along his or her care pathway, including their sequencing, associated delays, the healthcare providers involved, the tests performed, the information received, etc.
    • to understand the patient’s feelings at each of these stages, particularly with regard to reception in the medical centers, respect for his or her privacy, consideration of his or her needs, the possibility of the presence of the family and/or caregivers, pain management, therapeutic education, etc.
  • Factual restitution of the patient’s care to the healthcare workers: Alcimed restitutes to the patient’s care team (doctors, nurses, care assistants, etc…), the whole of the care resulting from the patient’s experience and perception (as well as his close relations and carers), since his entry in the care establishment.
  • Definition of an action plan in a multidisciplinary team: the medical care providers discuss potential areas for patient care improvement and define corrective actions to be implemented.

This confrontation between theory and practice is rich in lessons for all the players, including the healthcare industry, since it allows them to analyze practices in a concrete case and to compare the vision of healthcare professionals with the patient’s experience. It also enables us to implement improvement actions for the benefit of patients and the optimization of their care pathway.

Learn more about our experience in patient pathways >

Patient’s voice, a source of value for healthcare professionals and manufacturers

In the midst of the transition of the care ecosystem, initially turned “towards the patient”, then evolving “for the patient” and now defined “with the patient”, the tracer methodology is a pragmatic win-win approach.

In addition to improving patient pathways by defining optimization actions, the tracer methodology has benefits for the patient and contributes to the development of partnership approaches that aim to collaborate with healthcare stakeholders.

Indeed, questioning the patient and positioning him or her as an actor in his or her own care enables him or her to become more involved, improving the follow-up of medical advice and compliance with treatment. This patient centered method also has a broader impact, at the level of the establishments and care teams, which exchange information with each other, thus facilitating multi-professional cooperation.

In the midst of the transition of the care ecosystem, initially turned “towards the patient”, then evolving “for the patient” and now defined “with the patient”, the tracer methodology is a pragmatic win-win approach. Its standardized and global approach makes the method relevant for healthcare professionals and manufacturers who wish to investigate the multiple dimensions of the care pathway at the local level.

Thanks to its experience in this field, Alcimed can accompany you in the conduct of optimization projects of care pathways, among others, on the tracer methodology, particularly through the conduct of interviews with patients, the confrontation of their perceptions with health professionals, the identification of levers and corrective actions as well as the implementation and monitoring of these actions.

[1] Certification of hospitals for the quality of care (2021, septembre), High Authority of Health.

About the author, 

Mathilde, Consultant and Céline, Senior Consultant in the Alcimed’s Healthcare team in France

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