Integrated healthcare, while a debated term, is often used to describe the collaboration and communication between various healthcare professionals. Through this interprofessional relationship, an extensive and unique care plan is developed in order to cater to their patient in the most thorough manner possible.
Services offered usually cover disease prevention and management, rehabilitation and palliative care. Through coordination and communal goals focused on the individual’s psychological, economic, social and biological health, those involved are able to offer efficient service that aims to benefit their client across all areas.
According to the World Health Organization, integrated healthcare surrounds the core concept and priority—providing appropriate care to those who need it most—in a user-friendly manner. Various elements allow for this system to function and aid patients effectively, as will be outlined below.
- Key Principles
A system aiming to improve the lives of those suffering from physical and/or mental harm must embody a few basic elements that the clinically integrated network agrees upon. Though each integrated healthcare system is slightly different, the following principles are commonly held by most professionals involved:
- Ensure that the care continuum is easily applied and accessible.
- Focus on the needs of the patient and include them in planning.
- Ensure services are of high-quality and assist the user appropriately.
- Guarantee that stakeholders collaborate in an organized manner and represent several different areas of the healthcare system.
- Allow for appropriate funding mechanisms that promote patient care.
- Cater to individuals geographically, allowing them a point of access.
- Primary Care
Acknowledging that one model may not fit all patients, integrated healthcare systems are usually split up into different levels and target different areas. The primary care model caters to a patient’s basic set of needs and provides them with the appropriate resources to recover. They are generally a patient’s first point of access to their immediate or ongoing healthcare plan. Family physicians in Florida are a good example of what a primary care provider looks like. Their main goal is to address any basic injuries and sicknesses, while also caring for long-term illnesses, if appropriate. The primary care model is usually favored for minor complaints, as it is more cost- and time-efficient.
While providing referrals to specialists is common where mental health is concerned, this can sometimes prove a long and daunting process. Primary Care Behavioral Health is a subset of the primary care model and seeks to close this gap. This model allows for behavioral specialists to sit in and consult with patients at the same time as their general physicians. This saves time and allows for a better overview on how to proceed, rather than waiting on a referral.
- Collaborative Care
Collaborative care was developed in the 1990s and focuses more on psychiatric care. It is another area that involves not only primary care professionals but also behavioral and mental health specialists. In comparison to other short-term models, this model focuses on the repetition and consistency of treatments. This is due to the chronic and unrelenting nature of some mental illnesses. By tracking progress and monitoring patient outcomes over time, experts are able to better work together to improve their current efforts and optimize the quality of their work where required. A registry is used in order to efficiently manage patients and ensure they’re receiving relevant care. This model is evidence-based, relying on research, practices and results in order to treat patients properly.
Collaborative care has been proven effective and convenient for patients of various backgrounds. Evidence has been found to support this system’s inclusivity and accessibility. Supposed findings and benefits include but are not limited to:
- Identifying and improving mental health issues early
- Catering to those in rural areas
- Speeding up the surgery recovery process
- Implementing clinics in poorer areas
- Improving treatments for major diseases
- Improving the referral process
- Patient Focus
While many healthcare professionals will acknowledge the patient’s needs and opinions, the integrated healthcare system aims to expand this collaboration beyond the patient to the wider community as well. Those suffering from an illness or injury are generally their own first source for treatment; therefore, without properly engaging the patient in decision-making and planning, there is more chance of miscommunication and ineffective treatments. Further tools and strategies have been implemented in order to counter this.
Integrated healthcare aims to provide patients with thorough, consistent, and effective health care services, through the collaboration of various health professionals. Holding the patient’s needs as a top priority and ensuring services are easily accessible for anyone in need are key goals. The various models have proven effective across many areas of care, particularly the mental health sector.