Task shifting and sharing (TS/S) involves the redistribution of health tasks within workforces and communities. Conceptual frameworks lay out the key factors, constructs, and variables involved in a given phenomenon, as well as the relationships between those factors. Though TS/S is a leading strategy to address health worker shortages and improve access to services worldwide, a conceptual framework for this approach is lacking.
We used an online Delphi process to engage an international panel of scholars with experience in knowledge synthesis concerning TS/S and develop a conceptual framework for TS/S. We invited 55 prospective panelists to participate in a series of questionnaires exploring the purpose of TS/S and the characteristics of contexts amenable to TS/S programmes. Panelist responses were analysed and integrated through an iterative process to achieve consensus on the elements included in the conceptual framework.
The panel achieved consensus concerning the included concepts after three Delphi rounds among 15 panelists. The COATS Framework (Concepts and Opportunities to Advance Task Shifting and Task Sharing) offers a refined definition of TS/S and a general purpose statement to guide TS/S programmes. COATS describes that opportunities for health system improvement arising from TS/S programmes depending on the implementation context, and enumerates eight necessary conditions and important considerations for implementing TS/S programmes.
The COATS Framework offers a conceptual model for TS/S programmes. The COATS Framework is comprehensive and adaptable, and can guide refinements in policy, programme development, evaluation, and research to improve TS/S globally.