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Pflege. 2005 Jun;18(3):176-86.

[Clinical pathways: a way to integrate a standardized treatment and patient-orientation?].

[Article in German]

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Evangelische Fachhochschule Hannover, Katholische Fachhochschule Mainz.


The implementation of Diagnosis Related Groups (DRGs) as the payment system for hospital work requires to optimise the processes and the use of resources while maintaining the quality of care. To achieve these goals hospitals implement clinical pathways. The systematic structure of these pathways was developed in the industrial context during the 1950s. This history led to the assumption that a process begins and ends in a previously-planned most linear motion. This assumption creates various problems. First of all, the conditions of the situation and the individual's personal needs are ignored. Both aspects are relevant for the quality of care as well as for the calculation of the expenditures. Another problem is the disregard of communicative understanding, the core of nursing. As a result of these problems, the contradictory goals satisfying the rationale and communicative needs conflict. This situation creates the risk of the functional-orientated orders of the clinical pathways determining the relationship between the nurse and the patient. The next risk is that the patient will only be a marginal part of the process. In addition, the nurses may loose their caring competence. Despite these arguments, the use of clinical pathways can be well supported. For the pathway to be successful, the stipulation that remains important is for the system to allow flexibility. To achieve this flexibility, one must utilize assessment instruments. The steps of the intervention process have to be guided by the results of the assessment along with the outcome. The art of professional nursing should successfully combine the clinical pathway with the patient's individual needs.

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