Integrated healthcare is a way to allow patients to receive care in the most efficient, effective manner possible. The definition of integrated healthcare is also very different from other terms used to describe healthcare. For example, the most common way to describe integrated health is not so much as competent and skilled personnel working together but more as persons and services working together because their respective roles are mutually dependent (e.g., a physician’s role in caring for a patient involves many, many responsibilities).
Still, there are similarities: interdependence between people, persons and services being inherently connected and collaborative; people being interdependent on each other; knowledge and skills being interdependent.
There are also substantial benefits of integrated healthcare as compared with other forms of medical care. Efficient care: Patients are more likely to get better care if:
- They have access to information on how their condition develops over time
- They have access to information on how their condition will respond over time (e.g., an explanation of what drugs might be helpful in treating the disease)
- They can be treated at home (e.g., an explanation of why it’s not always necessary or advisable for a patient with diabetes to be admitted)
- They can be treated at home (e.g., an explanation of why it’s not always necessary or advisable for a patient with diabetes or other chronic diseases or injuries)
- They can be treated at home (e.g., an explanation of why it’s not always necessary or advisable for a patient with schizophrenia or other mental illnesses)
Integrated healthcare allows these things because:
- For patients who do not have insurance coverage, their ability to get good quality medical care hinges heavily on whether there are resources available to pay for it (accessing physicians who will provide them with information about their condition; coordinating medical staff who may have experience in treating particular kinds of conditions).
- Medical staff often do not have access to all the information needed by patients when caring for them; this means that non-medical staff often need assistance in identifying which information is needed by patients and which may be sufficient independently or need only limited assistance from medical staff when caring for them (for example, non-medical staff may want lists that include the history and demographics of cardiac risk factors
How integrated healthcare works
From a user perspective: it is far easier to use an integrated healthcare system than a single system. Users don’t just have to navigate between different systems, they have to navigate across several different systems too. That is a lot of work. The flip side is that integrated healthcare gives the user more control over their health and can reduce costs, which are often high in the case of integrated healthcare.
In reality, there are many different types of integration solutions – from software and hardware solutions all the way through to telemedicine systems . Here I am going to focus on software-based solutions for integrated healthcare.
What makes them so powerful? Well, for one thing, they are easy to install and may be used in any location (and having a central location where you can easily access your plan is also very beneficial). There are also great usability benefits. With modern technology at your fingertips you can quickly set up appointments with your doctor or other providers with just a few clicks on the screen itself and make decisions based on what you want rather than what they want (which can sometimes result in more expensive options).
Finally, using software-based solutions gives you control over the entire process, you can adjust plans depending on how many people need follow-up care or if someone has moved out of state, etc., without making changes to your primary plan. This means that you don’t have to deal with multiple insurance companies, etc., because everything is done directly through your account, and that makes things much simpler overall.
In short: If a company wants to understand how well integrated healthcare works for their users and whether it would be useful for customers then it needs an assessment tool that can measure:
- How users use their plan
- How well integration works
- How well integration helps users achieve their goals
- Whether users would benefit from more integration
The different types of integrated healthcare models
While there are several different models of integrated healthcare that you can consider, these are the most common ones:
- Patient-provider model: a doctor comes to the patient and they share their plans with them
- Physician-patient model: the doctor is a part of the system (an oncologist or an orthopedist)
- Hospital-provider model: each hospital has its own doctor office and hospital staff provides care in their respective areas (e.g., cardiology)
- Hospital-patient model: patients stay in one of the hospitals (and they share in their costs)
These models aren’t mutually exclusive, but they are different and distinct enough to not be considered as one whole system, especially if you use any of them for your product.
Being able to think about these types of systems is useful because it’s important to understand that any healthcare system is composed of several parts, which will require different approaches depending on where you sit within it, and you need to decide which one works best for your product, including its value proposition, customer experience and customer & market fit (if applicable).
Knowing how these systems work is important for understanding what’s required from your product, how it fits into your ecosystem and so on.
The advantages and disadvantages of integrated healthcare
Integrated healthcare is a way to allow patients and providers to work together to provide excellent health services. There are a number of good reasons for this, all of which are important to your long-term success as a healthcare provider. But there are also some downsides, so let’s take stock of the pros and cons.
The most obvious one is cost: integrated health care can be less expensive than traditional medical care, in part because it involves collaboration between patients, doctors and nurses. The collaboration may mean that different specialists work together (or don’t) to provide care, but the overall cost is lower as a result.
The other major advantage is convenience: hospitals legally have to allow patients access to the most common tests and procedures (and they often do) but they also have to be able to handle any additional requests that come along with the patient’s treatment. This means that if you have an emergency (which happens rarely), you can get in quickly without using up all your resources right away.
Overall, integration can give you significant benefits in terms of efficiency, but it can also lead down some unexpected paths, particularly if you are not fully aware of how it works or how it differs from other ways of working together (and what those differences might mean).
It’s important that you read your manuals carefully before beginning integration projects and make sure you understand what features of your system or system vendor interface are actually built into their software (so as not to cause unexpected problems).
We’ve been talking about integration for quite a while now; perhaps this post will help shed some light on some key aspects. Let me know if I missed anything or if you have any questions.
I was inspired to write this article after my conversation with Zahid Ali, Digital Health & Innovation Leader, HIMSS 2022 Change Maker and Founder at TECHMEDO In this episode, we talked about Integrated Healthcare, equity and accessibilty in Healthcare. A great discussion where we touched on many important points, from identifying the different stakeholders, building a common framework to exploring the capabilities to connect all the different facilities involved.
Watch Episode #63 of Digital Health & Wearables Series:
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