Using complexity theory to build interventions that improve health care delivery in primary care

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Previous observational research confirms abundant variation in primary care practice. While variation is sometimes viewed as problematic, its presence may also be highly informative in uncovering ways to enhance health care delivery when it represents unique adaptations to the values and needs of people within the practice and interactions with the local community and health care system. We describe a theoretical perspective for use in developing interventions to improve care that acknowledges the uniqueness of primary care practices and encourages flexibility in the form of intervention implementation, while maintaining fidelity to its essential functions.

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Author information

Correspondence to Dr. David Aron MD, MS.

Additional information

The authors have no conflict of interest to declare for this article.

Source of Funding: This project was partly funded from Veterans Administration Health Service (HSR&D) grants to Dr. Litaker (Career Development Award) and Dr. Aron (REA 01-100).

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Litaker, D., Tomolo, A., Liberatore, V. et al. Using complexity theory to build interventions that improve health care delivery in primary care. J Gen Intern Med 21, S30 (2006).

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Key words

  • health care delivery
  • nonlinear dynamics
  • quality of health care