A systematic review of observational studies of adult home care

Monica Leverton*, Alexandra Burton, Jessica Rees, Penny Rapaport, Jill Manthorpe, Murna Downs, Jules Beresford-Dent, Claudia Cooper

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The home-care workforce is in high demand globally. Home-care workers provide care for people at home, including practical and personal care, as well as other tasks such as medication management. We conducted a systematic review with the aims of understanding methods of observation that have been employed to study home care and to explore how these methods have enabled researchers to understand the quality of home care. We searched the literature using PubMed and CINAHL databases in May 2018, with no limits applied to date of publication. We searched for MeSH terms of ‘Home Care Services’, ‘Home Health Care’, ‘Home Nursing’ and ‘Observation*’. Across 15 eligible studies, the types of observation methods employed were categorised as structured, guided and unstructured. The characteristics of these methods, such as the level of participation adopted by the observer, varied across the studies. Three themes were developed through a narrative synthesis of the included studies’ findings: ‘The impact of care delivery and organisational factors’, ‘Observing relationships and communications’, and ‘People and places behind closed doors’. We conclude that methods of observation are a fairly novel, yet rich and meaningful way of exploring home-care practice. Researchers undertaking observations should consider elements such as the number of researchers observing and the potential for variations, how and when to record the observations, possible triangulation of data, the researcher's reflective stance as an observer, as well as ethical considerations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1388-1400
Number of pages13
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • community
  • ethnography
  • home care
  • observation
  • systematic review


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