What is Integrated Health Care and How Will It Affect Me?

Integrated health care is a systematic coordination of general and behavioral health care. The system joins mental health, substance abuse, and primary health care, and creates an effective approach toward caring for people in need. Integrated health care plans are in increasing use among nursing roles such as clinical nurse leaders, who are responsible for developing patient care plans.

What is Integrated Health Care?

With integrated health care, patients are able to access a wide variety of medical and behavioral services in a way that’s more convenient. This type of health care offers more support for their emotional and physical well-being while also being cost effective.

A Patient-centered Health Care Method

With integrated health care, a patient’s unique needs are met in a coordinated fashion by a team-based approach to treating chronic conditions. Supporting the patient with a multi-faceted approach, the patient has access to various resources available in the health care community which could include anything from treatment for diabetes to substance abuse issues. The focus in the integrated health care model is on treating the whole person with case management techniques, rather than focusing on individual illnesses or behavioral health issues.

Integrated Health Care Systems Can Save Money

Community-based addiction treatment can result in a 35% reduction in inpatient costs, a 39% reduction in emergency room costs, and a 26% reduction in total medical costs. It’s estimated that somewhere between $26 and $48 billion could be saved with the effective integration of medical and behavioral services for patients. A broad integrated health care study by the Sustaining Healthcare Across Integrated Primary Care Efforts (SHAPE) project suggests that approximately $656 million can be saved by coordinating treatment of patients with conditions like diabetes, hypertension, asthma, or arthritis.

Integrated Health Care is a Proven System that Benefits Many People

Not only can an integrated system save money, but there are also numerous case studies that illustrate the positive effect integrated health care programs have on individuals and communities. For example, a Massachusetts program helps mothers and their babies during the first year of the child’s life by providing training and toolkits, psychiatric consultation, and access to community-based resources.

Intermountain Healthcare from Salt Lake City, Utah, started a project that integrates mental health care into primary care practices. Because of this program, patients with depression were 54% less likely to visit their hospital’s emergency department; integrated clinics also saw a reduction in the rising costs of health care by a 27%.

In a local population plagued by chronic unemployment, Genesys Health System from Flint, Michigan, and its partners use a patient-centered integrated health care program along with a health navigator to help patients access much needed resources. The program, called Healthworks, helped the community lower health care costs by 25%.

How Does Integrated Health Care Affect Me?

The effects of an integrated health care approach can not only benefit the patients, but caregivers and health care professionals alike. In fact, research has shown that integrated health care can be effective toward reducing symptoms of depression in patients and health care workers. Programs that integrate psychologists and other mental health providers within primary care can enhance patient-centered care and overall access to important services, while improving quality of care and health care costs.

Whether you are a professional in the health care industry, a current student enrolled in an MSN program, or patient in need, integrated health care can benefit individuals in many different situations. From primary care to specialized care facilities such as rehabilitation, cardiology, and surgical centers, integrated health care can directly impact daily responsibilities and processes for health care professionals. Health care administrators and nurses responsible for creating patient care plans such as clinical nurse leaders should consider the following when creating an effective integrated health care program:

  • Hire peers to staff the program — these are team members who can closely identify with the clients the program serves.
  • Get buy-in across the organization and empower a team member with the responsibility of overseeing and managing the integration of services.
  • Speak the language of your clients and understand their cultural values.
  • Co-locate behavioral health services with a health clinic. This allows for easier coordination of care between behavioral health specialists and the patient’s primary care physician.
  • The ability to share data using health care technology is absolutely essential. With electronic health records, the entire health care team will have access to each patient’s records.
  • Get patients involved in their wellness, and make it fun and social. That could mean including patients on the board of your clinic, or it could be creating specific programs that cater to your clients’ greatest needs.

The field of health care is constantly evolving, and for patients and hospitals to run efficiently, roles like clinical nurse leader are in high demand in order to implement integrated health care programs. In order to advance in the health care profession and enhance patient care, safety, and quality, consider the online Masters of Science in Nursing with a clinical nurse leader track from Queens University of Charlotte. In this immersive program, students learn and develop skills for a growing nursing role that meet a growing health care demand.