New Study Examines Benefits and Current Limitations of Care Pathways

For Immediate Release
Contact: Andrea Hofelich,, 202-827-2078 (NPC)
Graham Buck,, 646-805-2024 (Analysis Group)

Researchers find need for establishing best practices, creating consistent methods of data collection and analysis, and improving transparency with patients

(Washington, D.C., January 20, 2016)—A new, peer-reviewed study examining care pathways found both strengths and areas of concern surrounding the current development and implementation of care pathways, also known as clinical pathways or integrated care pathways.

The study, “Care Pathways in U.S. Health Care Settings: Current Successes and Limitations, and Future Challenges,” was conducted and authored by researchers at Analysis Group, a leading economics and analytics consultancy firm with a large health care practice, and the National Pharmaceutical Council (NPC). Published today in The American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC), the study offers four recommendations for the further improvement of care pathways, including the need for greater patient engagement.

Intended to be a pragmatic translation of clinical guidelines and evidence, care pathways provide specific direction for delivering care that may extend over the course of disease or continuum of care. “They have enormous potential to impact quality of care and patient outcomes, but our research shows that there is room for improvement in the development and implementation of care pathways, especially when it comes to patient engagement,” said Anita Chawla, PhD, an Analysis Group Managing Principal and a co-author of the study.

According to a survey conducted as part of the research study, most health care providers who responded to the survey and use care pathways indicated that patients were not informed or directly educated about their use.

“The most serious concern we found is lack of transparency,” said Robert Dubois, MD, PhD, NPC’s chief science officer and executive vice president. “To achieve our country’s goals to improve quality of care while managing costs, open dialogue with patients—and the physicians who guide them—on care pathways is crucial.”

Promising trends in care pathway development and implementation also were identified by researchers. These include the prioritization of high-quality evidence considered in care pathway development, including key data sources such as treatment guidelines and randomized clinical trials. Researchers also found that there is flexibility in implementation by physicians to tailor treatment to their patients’ needs, most commonly through electronic medical record systems.

With these findings, the researchers proposed four recommendations to improve current practices:

  • Develop consensus-driven best practices—Creating best practices to guide the development, implementation and evaluation of care pathways will help streamline an otherwise complicated process.
  • Create consistent methods for data collection and analysis—The ability to better collect and analyze data will support critical evaluation of care pathway performance against set goals.
  • Maintain transparency—All elements of pathway development, implementation and evaluation should be clear to providers and patients.
  • Provide patient access to disclosures—Patients should receive information about the development and impact of pathways, know whether treatment plans follow a care pathway and whether the clinical practice in which care is being delivered is subject to pathway-related incentives.

“Stakeholders need to work together to ensure that care pathways, from development to evaluation, are focused on producing optimal patient outcomes,” said Kimberly Westrich, MA, NPC’s vice president for health services research. “We hope this research can raise awareness of the current limitations and be a catalyst for motivating action on the four recommendations.”

About the National Pharmaceutical Council
The National Pharmaceutical Council is a health policy research organization dedicated to the advancement of good evidence and science, and to fostering an environment in the United States that supports medical innovation. Founded in 1953 and supported by the nation’s major research-based pharmaceutical companies, NPC focuses on research development, information dissemination, and education on the critical issues of evidence, innovation and the value of medicines for patients. For more information, visit and follow NPC on Twitter @npcnow.

About the Analysis Group
With more than 600 professionals, many with advanced degrees and expertise in health outcomes research, epidemiology, strategy, biostatistics, economics, and other quantitative disciplines, Analysis Group ( has established a leadership role in the science, economics, and business strategy of the global health care industry. The firm’s 11 offices are located in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Menlo Park, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.; and internationally in Montreal and Beijing.