Is integrated care the next model for healthcare?

by Sven Parkel @ 24.05.2017

Is integrated care the next model for healthcare?

More and more effort goes towards making the most of the treatments and assuring the best outcomes for patients. Here is where integrated care comes to play.

Innovation in healthcare services is mainly driven by the increasing disease burden. While the number of treatable diseases is increasing, so are the costs for the healthcare system. Thus more and more effort goes towards making the most of the treatments and assuring the best outcomes for patients.

Here is where integrated care comes to play.

In general, integrated care sees the patient as a whole and understands there are other aspects to beating a disease than just sending in a drug to do the job. Diseases are multifaceted. There are often psychological aspects of coping with the illness that have to be addressed for a better outcome. And also other aspects, such as education and empowerment of patients. The focus of healthcare service providers is moving from offering treatments to offering integrated solutions for better outcomes. It is the combination of cure and care that will lead to better results for treating complex diseases.

Critical elements of integrated care are supporting, educating and engaging the patients, but also empowerment. Psychologist have a clear role here as physicians are not specifically instructed to help with psychological issues during primary care. And going further, increasing the awareness of health-related behaviours should be approached systematically and on a wider scale as many factors leading to reoccurrence of the disease can be reduced and controlled without drugs. For example, stress is believed to be one of the main factors leading to chronic diseases yet stress is hard to control with drugs.

From the side of health care provider it means offering a wider range of coordinated services and more personalized approach to patients. Of course, separation of services and added functionality will lead to added direct costs, information flow needs to be organized and there is no single point of accountability ā€“ all these factors have to be accounted when offering integrated care.

But offering integrated healthcare service leads to less relapse and less re-occurrence, which both are extremely costly not only for the healthcare system, but also costly for the economy in general leading to reduced value of Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALY).

There are many aspects of integrated care that provide better outcomes. It is proposed, that keeping people out of the hospitals leads to better outcomes as closeness to the family and loved ones supports the recovery. Many functions of the doctors can be provided from distance these days either by distant monitoring or telemedicine. In addition, integrated care can provide support not easily available in hospitals, such as psychological support and better access to patients. IMPACT study in the US mentions reduced outpatient visits, reduced trips to the emergency room and reduced pharmacy services due to offering integrated care.

Also, many pharmaceutical companies, such as Sanofi, Sandoz and LEO Pharma, agree that integrated care is the future to choose.

We are entering a new era where the focus of healthcare service providers in not on the treatments alone but on the value-added services. The future will be less about just drugs and more about the care and cure.

Switching to integrated care needs systematic changes, but it looks to be an exciting and empowering challenge and as the outcome we all will be winning.