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Research project: A study of sense-making strategies and help-seeking behaviours associated with the use and provision of urgent care services

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Urgent care includes a range of services (e.g. out-of-hours, walk-in centres, NHS 111) that have been designed to improve access and manage rising service demand. These services are also closely linked with emergency care (e.g. 999 ambulance services and emergency departments). Patients with a perceived urgent care need are required to navigate and access this complex system of urgent and emergency care.

This 2 year project seeks to identify sense-making strategies and help-seeking behaviours which explain the utilization of urgent care services in a complex urgent care landscape to address the gaps in this evidence base to inform commissioners, providers and policy decision makers in order to:

  1. Describe how patients, the public, providers (professionals and managers), and shapers (commissioners and policy makers) define and make sense of the urgent care landscape
  2. Explain how sense-making influences help-seeking strategies and patients’ choices in accessing and navigating available urgent (and emergency) care services
  3. Analyse the ‘work’ (‘burden of treatment’) for patients involved in understanding, navigating and choosing to utilize urgent care
  4. Explain urgent care utilization and identify modifiable factors in urgent care patient decision making.

A mixed methods design includes the following components:

  • Literature review of policy documents and empirical research to identify meanings and definitions of urgent care from multiple perspectives (policy, service providers, and patient) and citizens' panels convened to debate and offer direction about how to define and conceptualise urgent health care.
  • Qualitative interviews to identify and explain patient help-seeking strategies, choices and workload in accessing and navigating available urgent care services.
  • Integrative analysis of data to build a conceptual model that explains the urgent care utilization from which we can identify modifiable factors that affect urgent care patient decision making.

Our data clinic approach will be used to share and interpret data, build emergent themes and develop narrative and interpretive summaries. Analyses will be informed by conceptual ideas drawn from previous research and theorising (i.e. sense-making, burden of treatment). We will also use techniques such as decision trees and models of interaction choices and behaviours.

The research will allow researchers, healthcare professionals and policy makers to reach a shared definition/conceptualization of urgent care. A comprehensive model of patient sense-making strategies that influence help-seeking choices and behaviours will identify what policy makers, commissioners and providers should take into account when making changes or introducing new interventions.

Associated research themes

Urgent and Emergency Care; Healthcare Utilization; NHS 111; Help-seeking Behaviour

Related research groups

Health Work and Systems
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