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Outcomes Manag Nurs Pract. 1999 Apr-Jun;3(2):53-9; quiz 59-60.

Linking outcomes management and practice improvement. Structured care methodologies: evolution and use in patient care delivery.

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St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Structured care methodologies are tools that provide a comprehensive approach to patient care delivery. These tools have evolved in their application and purpose over the years. In many situations, multiple tools are needed to obtain the best outcomes for a patient. The presence of a SCM does not preclude clinical judgment. On the contrary, the fundamental purpose of any SCM is to assist practitioners in implementing practice patterns associated with good clinical judgment, research-based interventions, and improved patient outcomes. These tools support smooth operation and appropriate use of resources, establish a means of patient management across the continuum of care, facilitate collaboration among disciplines, reflect patient outcomes, and provide outcomes data. Data from SCMs permit benchmarking, comparison of pre-implementation and post-implementation outcomes, development of action plans for quality enhancement, identification of high-risk patients, identification of issues and problems in the system that require interventions, and the development of research protocols and studies. Structured care methodology development and implementation can be challenging, rewarding, and at times frustrating. When used appropriately, these tools can have a major impact on the standardization of care and the achievement of desired outcomes. However, individual patient needs may supersede adherence to a tool. The challenge then becomes one of balancing the unique needs of each patient and appropriate use of SCMs. Change comes slowly, but persistence pays off.

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