Do you ever feel like managing your healthcare is a balancing act? You’ve got regular visits with your primary care physician, dentist, and possibly eye doctor and gynaecologist. If you have any health issues, you might have check-ups with specialists as well. On top of it all, you have to relay information back and forth to keep each doctor up to date. It’s a job of its own. If you’re tired of playing the messenger, integrated healthcare, also known as coordinated care, and comprehensive care, could be a game-changer.
Let’s dive into what it is, why it’s surging in Canada, and why it could be your next move.
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What Is Integrated Healthcare?
Integrated healthcare is an approach to medicine that involves a varied and collaborative care team working together. It’s a holistic approach, meaning that it addresses your physical and mental health together. It accounts for social circumstances and other factors that impact your health, too.
At its core, integrated healthcare is all about having a system of medical professionals who work together for your health. This can include physicians, therapists, nurses, specialists, and so on. It can also involve social services.
Ten Principles of Integrated Healthcare
We look to the National Standard of Canada for a more detailed view of integrated healthcare. The NSC lays out ten principles of an integrated people-centred health system (IPCHS):
- Define the population and identify desired outcomes
- Coordinate a comprehensive continuum of services
- Optimize healthcare access, flow, and transactions
- Enable and support people-centred care teams
- Develop and strengthen the system’s leadership
- Establish shared governance and clear accountabilities
- Align funding and incentives
- Implement interoperable information systems
- Measure and manage performance based on impact
- Embed a culture of adaptive learning
These principles guide how an integrated healthcare system should operate for its patients’ well-being.
What Are the Benefits of Integrated Healthcare?
Integrated healthcare is growing in Canada and beyond. Why? There are several unique advantages to taking an integrated approach to healthcare.
Better Patient Satisfaction
Surveys show that patients tend to be happier with their healthcare when they use an integrated healthcare system.
What’s not to love? You have all your providers in one place so you don’t have to find multiple offices and practices. This makes your life easier, and everyone could use more convenience in their life.
Better Health Outcomes
The healthcare world has known for many years that patients get better outcomes when their various providers work together. It’s not surprising that integrated healthcare systems have strong outcomes. For example, studies of older adults who use integrated medicine show:
- Lower hospital admission rates
- Shorter hospital stays
- Lower rates of hospital readmission
One example of this is a pilot program at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, Utah. This program integrated psychiatric care into primary care practices. During this study, the clinic’s patients with depression were 54% less likely to visit emergency rooms than other patients with depression.
Better Patient Quality of Life
It’s one thing to live longer or have better health. It’s something else to have a good quality of life. Patients who receive integrated healthcare are likely to have a better quality of life because there’s a team working together to make it happen, rather than one doctor picking up on whatever they can.
Higher Quality of Patient-Centred Care
Patient-centred care is a cornerstone of strong healthcare. Integrative healthcare fosters this because of the collaborative approach.
Physicians don’t look at a patient’s visit in isolation. They don’t simply say, “You’re reporting X symptom today. The most common cause of that symptom is Y condition, so we’ll treat you for Y.” Instead, providers look at your health as a cohesive unit to weigh all the factors and determine the best move forward.
Better Access to Necessary Services
In a traditional healthcare situation, if a doctor refers you to another specialist, that’s only the first step. You have to find a specialist near you that suits your needs and budget. Then, you need to book an appointment and possibly jump through hoops to get the specialist’s report back to the first doctor.
This is enough of a pain, and it’s assuming you have specialists in your area. Many patients don’t.
In an integrated healthcare system, you have access to all the providers you need because they’re all in the same system. Seamless referrals, telemedicine options, and other features allow you to get the care you need all in one place.
Integrated healthcare can also give patients easier access to care they need but may not seek otherwise. Take psychological care, for example. Many patients could benefit from this care but don’t take the time and expense to pursue it. If it’s part of their standard care, they get what they need without extra effort.
More Time-Effective and Cost-Effective Care
As important as your health is, no one has all the time in the world to go to appointments and wait for tests. In an integrative healthcare system, there’s no redundant testing. There are no long gaps of time while your medical file is transferred.
With integrative healthcare, you enjoy fewer appointments and no redundancies. This makes your care both faster and more affordable. This is supported by a study by the Sustaining Healthcare Across Integrated Primary Care Efforts (SHAPE) project.
The study suggests that about $656 million can be saved by coordinating the treatment of patients with conditions like diabetes or hypertension.
Types of Integrated Healthcare Models
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines two types of integrated healthcare. There are individual models as well as group or disease-based models.
Individual Models of Integrated Healthcare
In integrated healthcare, an individual model is an all-encompassing system. It focuses on coordinating all the care complex patients need for their multiple conditions.
These are the patients that need a care team most. This includes patients who have frequent emergency department visits and hospital admissions, multiple chronic conditions, or the need for social services alongside their healthcare.
Case management is a core piece of this model. Each patient has one provider, usually a PCP, who coordinates all their care. That provider creates a comprehensive, multidisciplinary care plan. They might consult with specialists to develop the plan, but regardless, the specialists use this plan as a guide.
This model follows the concept of a patient-centred medical home (PCMH). It’s all about giving patients access to all the care they need within one system they trust.
This model can also help patients budget their healthcare. If one PCP is coordinating all these services, they can help patients align their care with their financial abilities.
Group/Disease-Based Models of Integrated Healthcare
Unlike the individual model, the group/disease-based model is a way to integrate healthcare across multiple networks and practices. While the individual model has all a patient’s care within the same system, the group-based model fosters collaboration across multiple systems.
This model involves multiple chains of care. A patient’s care is managed holistically with clinical networks of primary, secondary, and tertiary care.
Examples of Coordinated Care in Canada
With the many benefits it offers, it’s not surprising that integrated healthcare is on the rise in Canada. One example we can look to is the province of Ontario.
Ontario initiated an integrated care program called Integrated Funding Models (IFMs). This program requires collaboration and coordination across acute and post-acute care sectors to serve patients with acute issues.
There are numerous examples of integrated healthcare systems in Canada as well. Take SRx, for example. Our comprehensive healthcare system can manage your pharmacy, clinic, and virtual care needs. Consider us a one-stop shop for better health.
Why Integrated Healthcare Is the Future
As healthcare technology advances, our care is bound to become more and more complex. As this happens, integrated healthcare just makes sense.
Integrated healthcare is also particularly well-suited to patients with chronic health conditions. That includes nearly half of Canadians.
How to Learn More About Comprehensive Care
Wondering if integrated healthcare could give you a path to better health? Learn more about this popular option and how it can help you. Sign up for the SRx Health newsletter today.