The Relationship between Characteristics of Home Care Nursing Service Contracts under Managed Competition and Continuity of Care and Client Outcomes: Evidence from Ontario
The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of the Request for Proposal (RFP) process - specifically, the profit status of provider agencies awarded contracts, the service volume awarded and contract duration - on the quality of home care services and outcomes. A cross-sectional (contract characteristics) and repeated measures (clients) design was used to collect data on the study variables. Primary data were collected in 2002-2003 from 11 Community Care Access Centres (CCACs) and 11 nursing provider agencies in Ontario. The sample included 750 home care clients recruited consecutively from home care referrals. Follow-up assessments were completed on 498 clients. CCACs and provider agencies completed written questionnaires about profit status, contract volume, duration of contract, potential for renewal, number of visits made by a principal nurse and number of visits made by a registered nurse. Data were collected on client health outcomes either at admission to home care service for new clients or at entry to the study for long-term clients, and then at discharge from service or at the end of six weeks, whichever came first, using the eight subscales of the Medical Outcome Study SF-36. Analysis was conducted using hierarchical linear modelling.For the most part, contract characteristics were not related to the consistency of principal nurse visits or client outcomes. Where differences existed, they were small. Clients of agencies awarded longer contracts received greater consistency in principal nurse visits than clients of agencies awarded shorter contracts. Clients cared for by for-profit agencies reported slightly higher satisfaction with care and better mental health outcomes than clients cared for by not-for-profit agencies. The percentage of visits made by a registered nurse was positively associated with social function outcome for clients at follow-up. In conclusion, the study findings suggest that contract characteristic variables had a small effect on home care client outcomes.