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OBJECTIVE: Research investigating the association between continuity of care (CoC) and patient outcomes in mental health care is limited. A previous review (1970-2002) concluded that evidence for an association between CoC and outcomes was inconsistent and limited. This systematic review, conducted a decade later, provides an update. METHODS: Searches (1950-2014) were conducted on MEDLINE and PsycINFO. Included studies used a clearly identified measure of CoC and examined its relation to an outcome among adults (ages 18-65). Only English-language publications were included. RESULTS: A total of 984 studies were identified that measured CoC. Eighteen met inclusion criteria, and 13 found an association between CoC and an outcome. As found in the previous review, studies reported conflicting results for the most frequently examined outcomes (hospitalization, symptom severity, social functioning, and service satisfaction). Little consistency was found between studies in choice of CoC measures and outcomes. Studies varied markedly in quality. Two of the three studies rated as good quality reported significant associations between CoC and social functioning. Compared with older studies, studies published since the previous systematic review (2002-2014) found a larger proportion of significant associations. CONCLUSIONS: Little consistency was found in the way CoC was measured, which made it difficult to compare studies. Therefore, clear evidence about the association between CoC and outcomes remains limited. Results in regard to social functioning are encouraging. However, in order for conclusions to be made, researchers need to be more consistent with the measures they choose to allow comparison of studies.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychiatr Serv

Publication Date





354 - 363


Continuity of Patient Care, Humans, Mental Disorders, Outcome Assessment, Health Care