Skip to content

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

Integrated health care is the systematic coordination of general and behavioral health care. The system joins mental health, substance abuse, and primary health care, and it creates an effective approach toward caring for people in need. Integrated health care plans are used more often 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 can access a wide variety of medical and behavioral services in a more convenient way. This type of health care offers more support for a patient’s 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 the 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 numerous case studies illustrate the positive effect that 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.

Advance your career with Queens University of Charlotte

Advance your career in Healthcare

What is Integrative Health and How Does it Differ from Integrated Health Care?

While its name is similar, integrative health differs considerably from integrated health care. According to the National Institutes of Health, integrative health has much in common with holistic medicine, as it brings “mental, emotional, functional, spiritual, social, and community” considerations into a patient’s care plan. Researchers continue to explore the benefits of integrative health, and it sometimes serves as a complementary form of health care instead of an integrated part of mainstream medicine.

How Does Integrated Health Care Affect Me?

The effects of an integrated health care approach can benefit not only patients but also caregivers and health care professionals. In fact, research has shown that integrated health care can be effective in 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 the 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 a 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. What is integrated health care’s role in ensuring these disparate aspects of medicine function cohesively? Health care administrators and clinical nurse leaders can answer this question in practice by creating patient care plans that consider the following aspects of an effective integrated health care program:

  • Hire peers to staff the program — these are team members who can closely identify with the program’s clients.
  • Get buy-in across the organization and empower a team member responsible for 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 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. For hospitals to offer efficient patient care, they rely on clinical nurse leaders and other high-demand professionals to implement integrated health care programs. To advance in the health care profession and enhance patient care, safety, and quality, consider the online Master 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 meets a growing health care demand.