The social and economic conditions are affecting both the physical and mental health of a vast population. Previously, there had been a separate treatment for both medical conditions. As a result, the care was disintegrated and of low quality. Combining behavioral health care and primary health can be a solution to this problem. Integrated care combines multiple groups actively involved in patient care to provide uniform and coordinated services to them.
Before indulging in the practices that can advance integrated healthcare, let’s look at integration levels.
Levels of Integration
The following are five levels of integration that indicate the benchmarks of care. It depends on the organizations which one to choose among them.
Level 1: With digital systems’ help, both primary care physicians and behavioral health providers can access patients’ medical history. In this way, they can form a combined plan at the same time.
Level 2: In this level, the physical health clinics and behavioral health workers communicate with each other at a distance. They update the other party about the patient’s condition through telephone calls or letters.
Level 3: Primary care providers and behavioral health practitioners are working together closely. Both are practicing in the same room and sharing system.
Level 4: At this level, they start to work as a team and have communication personally.
Level 5: In this model, there is a complete collaboration between behavioral practitioners and primary care providers. Both of them treat the process as one.
Practices for The Implementation of Integrated Healthcare
The success of integrated care systems is dependent on the fulfillment of patient needs instead of healthcare providers. Organizations that remain oblivious and pay no attention to the requirements of patients most probably fail. Also, the medical and healthcare staff should stay on their toes to provide the best services at the appropriate time. Nurses and other health professionals should ensure patient engagement and provide opportunities for them to participate. Already registered nurses can pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice to become the future leaders in nursing and mold this profession into a better shape. They can take a step further and make special efforts for patient care and outcomes.
Provision of Care Through Interprofessional Teams
The collaboration of health professionals and physicians guarantees the continuity of standard care. A powerful team of professionals works collectively to meet the set goals and targets. Within a group, no one feels neglected, and the one with efficient performance receives rewards and incentives. Each member has to perform their job responsibilities to ensure the patient’s gradual shifting between the two types of care. Interprofessional teams should mutually agree on different matters, such as safety practices, instructions, and decision-making processes. Failing to comply can lead to a compromise in quality care since the team can not work efficiently.
Although the idea of working together seems easy, however, there are many barriers. Conflict of interest, competing ideas, and trust issues serve as obstacles to teamwork.
Increase Medical and Healthcare Staff
Through creating internship and fellowship programs, there can be an increase in the staff supply. Another way to increase the workforce is to hire behavioral health providers. These professionals may include registered nurses, licensed therapists, psychologists, licensed social workers, and many others. However, professionals with masters nursing online will have more advantage over others because they know how to integrate their skills to provide efficient healthcare services. It is important to note that these professionals must be flexible, competent enough to diagnose and work effectively with physical and behavioral health conditions. Several advanced integrated healthcare systems hire a workforce that meets these criteria and is willing to adjust to the system.
Information System (IS)
The previously addressed processes would only be viable with the help of a modern information system. The information system ensures effective communication and an adequate flow of data and information across integrated roads. Electronic medical records work as a liaison between clients, payers, and providers. The data must be accessible to every health provider irrespective of their location. The IS must allow patient registration and management of medical records across the system. For tracking profitability and clinical services, the information system should have the capability to integrate financial and medical information. Establishing an integrated information system is laborious, complicated, and expensive. Therefore, healthcare systems must utilize high-quality technology solutions and designs for a successful information system.
An advanced integrated healthcare system needs an inspiring leader and a culture that follows the system’s vision. Most of the time, the integration fails due to the differences in the cultures, such as between medical care providers and other service care providers. A strong leader is responsible for bringing multiple cultures together and creating a smooth communication process. If a leader starts promoting an integrated healthcare system with its team, they will most likely own the process. These visionary leaders understand the value of learning and how it is vital to develop an integrated system. Therefore, they provide resources, opportunities, and incentives to their staff and allow them to take time for their learning.
Steering the direction of traditional healthcare systems towards integrated care can have a significant impact on the organization. However, these modifications create a sense of discomfort and chaos within the organization. Various studies have revealed most transitions fail because of cultural elements. Many employees feel reluctant to accept these changes, or managers are not considerate. Nevertheless, these barriers might be challenging but not so hard to overcome.