Authors of this editorial, published in BMJ Quality and Safety, conclude by stating that while the use of classification to identify patients who have additional needs and/or are at increased risk of harm has potential benefits, care needs to be taken to avoid possible harm and unintended consequences. They highlight several actions that would help ensure the benefits of classification are maximised, but note that none of these are necessarily easy to achieve in practice, especially in the context of overwhelmed and under-resourced health services.
However, ensuring that patients with additional needs and/or risks have these appropriately identified and responded to while receiving healthcare must be a priority. The need for healthcare to be equitable, that is, not vary in quality because of a patient’s personal characteristics, is recognised as an important quality dimension, and this issue has received increased attention in recent years. If used well, classification can be part of the move to ensuring more equitable care for those with additional needs.