Given the crucial influence of professionals on the outcomes of care, it is important to better identify aspects that hamper or facilitate ‘good care’ in and across the various settings of long-term care provision from their perspective. Related issues are rather underresearched not only in Austria.
The aims of the study were to identify key factors of quality in long-term care delivery and potential improvements of working conditions that may hamper or facilitate ‘good care’ in and across the various settings of long-term care provision.
Interviews with members of the different professional groups working in long-term care (LTC) revealed several crucial factors for the provision of high-quality care. First, the continued development of a distinct LTC identity – as against health and/or social care – is itself determining the conceptualisation of LTC quality, with regard to the selection of appropriate quality indicators and, ultimately, to improvements in care services and outcomes. Second, working conditions are critical for the provision of quality care and are, in many cases, the lens through which care professionals perceive and understand care quality. Third, unlike in the practice of clinical medicine, relationships play a central role in care work; not only the relationship between care professionals and users, but also between professionals and users’ family members and other informal carers. Fourth, the way in which care services are financed and structured has a strong influence on the delivery of care and on the interaction and cooperation – or lack thereof – between different professional groups. Lastly, the importance of having multi-disciplinary care teams and scheduling time for team work and team meetings. These and other themes were the basis for the development of the catalogue of ‘Good Care from A to Z’, including 53 themes and key issues.
The results and policy recommendations of the study, while embedded in the Austrian context, have noteworthy implications for efforts to improve quality of LTC in other countries. The empirical results of this study underpinned the ongoing debates in Austria about long-term care and reforms in vocational education and practice, with tangible recommendations for improvement.