This research seeks to identify what accountability frameworks were in place for the home and community care sector in the Canadian province of Ontario, how home and community care agencies in Ontario responded to accountability demands attached to government service funding (specifically through Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) contracts and Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) Multi-Service Accountability Agreements (MSAAs) and what, if any, effect accountability frameworks had on service delivery.
This study uses a multi-phase parallel mixed methods approach. First, an environmental scan and document analysis was conducted to identify accountability frameworks and identify key characteristics of accountability demands. Next, 114 home and community care agencies in Ontario were surveyed and 20 key informant interviews were conducted with executives from 13 home and community care agencies, two CCACs and two LHINs. Data from these different methods were combined in the analysis phase.
Home and community care agencies face multiple accountability requirements from a variety of stakeholders. We found that government agencies relied most heavily on regulatory and expenditure policy instruments to hold home and community care organizations to account. Organizational size and financial dependence were significantly related to organizational compliance to accountability demands attached to CCAC contracts and MSAAs. In addition to the theorized potential organizational responses to external demands (compliance, compromise, avoidance and defiance), this study found that organizations engaged in internal modification where internal practices are changed to meet accountability requirements. Smaller, more poorly resourced organizations that were highly dependent on LHINs or CCACs were more likely to internally modify organizational practice to meet accountability demands. Although MSAAs and CCAC contracts supported a quality culture amongst organizations, internal organizational changes, such as redirecting time towards reporting requirements and away from care, and cutting innovative practices and programs, were reported to have a negative impact on the quality of service delivery.
Government reliance on contract-based accountability for funded home and community care services, while politically advantageous, has the potential to seriously and negatively affect the quality of home and community services delivered. Policy makers need to carefully consider the potential impact on quality of service delivery when developing and implementing accountability policy.