Closer integration of health and social care is a policy priority in many countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the necessity of joining up health and social care systems, especially in care home settings. However, the meaning and perceived importance of integration for residents’ and carers’ experience is unclear and we do not know whether it has changed during the pandemic.

Using unique data from on-line care home service reviews, we combined multiple methods. We used Natural Language Processing with supervised machine learning to construct a measure of sentiment for care home residents' and their relatives’ (measured by AFINN score). Difference-in-difference analysis was used to examine whether experiencing integrated care altered these sentiments by comparing changes in sentiment in reviews related to integration (containing specific terms) to those which were not. Finally, we used network analysis on post-estimation results to assess which specific attributes stakeholders focus on most when detailing their most/least positive experiences of health and care integration in care homes, and whether these attributes changed over the pandemic.

Reviews containing integration words were more positive than reviews unrelated to integration in the pre-pandemic period (about 2.3 points on the AFINN score) and remained so during the first year of the pandemic. Overall positive sentiment increased during the COVID-19 period (average by +1.1 points), mainly in reviews mentioning integration terms at the beginning of the first (+2.17, p-value 0.175) and second waves (+3.678, p-value 0.027). The role of care home staff was pivotal in both positive and negative reviews, with a shift from aspects related to care in pre-pandemic to information services during the pandemic, signalling their importance in translating integrated needs-based paradigms into policy and practice.

Cite as

Almorox, E., Stokes, J. & Morciano, M. 2022, 'Has COVID-19 changed carer's views of health and care integration in care homes? A sentiment difference-in-difference analysis of on-line service reviews', Health Policy. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.healthpol.2022.08.010

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Last updated: 09 September 2022
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