An Integrated care program bring together the various types of healthcare and revolutionize traditionally fragmented healthcare systems. It is a worldwide trend that is reforming the organization of and the deliverance of various forms of healthcare.
The program is known as integrated health, comprehensive care and transmural care, among other names. Studies on its impact show that it has demonstrated better service quality and an enhanced patient experience. Patients should ask their healthcare provider if they utilize the integrated care model.
What Is Integrated Care?
Integrated care is not a type of care but an approach to healthcare. Although this is an extremely complex field, the World Health Organization (WHO) seeks to define it as the bringing together of everything from the management of diagnosis, treatment, ongoing care, service delivery and overall public health campaigns. Full integration of healthcare systems has the potential to improve access to healthcare, user satisfaction, efficiency and overall quality.
Additionally, integrated care is not only a concern for national health bodies. Private clinics and other healthcare institutions are also implementing integrated care approaches. It is important to note integrated care can be utilized in a variety of ways. Not every healthcare organization uses the exact same model of integrated care, but the central tenants of coordination, co-location and integrated care remain the same.
What Happens In An Integrated Care Program?
Integrated care can be seen as a generalized approach to revolutionizing the way healthcare is managed and delivered by both public and private healthcare organizations. There is an increasing body of evidence demonstrating improved health outcomes when institutions fully embrace the principles of integrated care. Patients should be aware of how integrated care works if they are considering treatment with a facility or practitioner using this approach.
Coordinated Care Strategies
A central concept of integrated care is the coordination of care strategies throughout the care system. In practice, this means multiple departments and multiple professionals sharing information between each other. This applies across both the primary and secondary care interfaces. This is made easier through ensuring care continuity through the system. For example, the patient seeing the same professional each time establishes trust and strengthens the overall relationship between healthcare provider and patient. Coordinated care is central to a healthcare system that is efficient and streamlined.
Co-Located Care Strategies
Co-location within integrated care is the practice of situating multiple types of healthcare professional within the same premises. This allows patients to move to different stages of treatment without having to relocate to a separate healthcare facility. For example, if a patient requires regular check-ups for a specific illness, but the nearest testing location is 100 miles away, what are the chances of the patient sticking to this regimen?
Co-location makes it easier for patients to comply with recommended treatments, allows them to feel more comfortable and builds the relationship between patient and care provider. It also improves the ability of a healthcare organization to deliver the coordinated care strategies and provide a vital feeling of continuity. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs is the largest integrated care delivery system in the U.S. and they are often spotlighted as an example of how major organizations make co-location possible. Naturally, co-location is not always possible in practice, but healthcare providers ready to embrace integrated care are strongly advised to do what they are able.
Integrated Care Strategies
Integrated care is a broad and continually evolving concept. There is no step-by-step instruction manual for successful implementation of integrated care strategies because every locale in the U.S. is different. Two of the most common examples of integrated care strategies are horizontal integration and vertical integration.
Horizontal integration is the combining of similar care facilities. For example, a healthcare authority may decide to merge multiple acute care hospitals. This is seen as a way of reducing waste and inefficiencies within healthcare systems.
Vertical integration, on the other hand, involves close coordination and collaboration between services at different stages of healthcare deliverance. For example, this could involve combining clinics dedicated to general practice and a local secondary care facility. This enables patients at multiple treatment stages to remain within the same facility. This form of integration is considered to have the largest impact because it brings together healthcare providers ranging from prevention and diagnosis to treatment and rehabilitation.
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