Despite growing interest in and commitment to integration, or integrated care, the concept is ill-defined and the resulting evidence base fragmented, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Underlying this challenge is a lack of coherent approaches to measure the extent of integration and how this influences desired outcomes. The aim of this scoping review is to identify measurement approaches for integration in LMICs and map them for future use.
Arksey and O’Malley’s framework for scoping reviews was followed. We conducted a systematic search of peer-reviewed literature measuring integration in LMICs across three databases and screened identified papers by predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria. A modified version of the Rainbow Model for Integrated Care guided charting and analysis of the data.
We included 99 studies. Studies were concentrated in the Africa region and most frequently focused on the integration of HIV care with other services. A range of definitions and methods were identified, with no single approach for the measurement of integration dominating the literature. Measurement of clinical integration was the most common, with indicators focused on measuring receipt of two or more services provided at a single point of time. Organizational and professional integration indicators were focused on inter- and intra-organizational communication, collaboration, coordination, and continuity of care, while functional integration measured common information systems or patient records. Gaps were identified in measuring systems and normative integration. Few tools were validated or publicly available for future use.
We identified a wide range of recent approaches used to measure integration in LMICs. Our findings underscore continued challenges with lack of conceptual cohesion and fragmentation which limits how integration is understood in practice.