Integrated care requires a different way of organising care, for example, cross-organisational collaboration. As a policy and decision-maker it is therefore important to know the benefits. In this article we provide 6 reasons for organising integrated care.
You can find more information on this topic in book 2 of the roadmap: ‘Setting up integrated care’. The roadmap is a practical representation of research findings from the European project SUSTAIN.
6 reasons why integrated care is beneficial
1. Focuses on prevention and self-care. Care professionals easily forget that 80% of care is self-care and only about 20% is delivered by professionals. Self-care is an important part of the user’s perception, which therefore makes a focus on prevention and self-care essential. Integrated care provides this by taking the user’s perspective as the organising principle.
2. Improves people’s experiences of care. Research findings show evidence of perceived improved quality of care, increased patient satisfaction with services, and enhanced access to care.
3. Improves population health. Significant advantages can arise from the integration of services if it is targeted at those users for whom care is currently poorly coordinated. Not only frail older people benefit, but also children and adults with disabilities, people with addictions, and those with multiple chronic and mental health illnesses. Integrated care is also relevant for people requiring urgent care, such as cancer patients. A fast and well-coordinated care response can then significantly improve care outcomes.
4. Helps the most vulnerable. Frail people suffer the most when there is a lack of integrated coordination of care services. There is an ethical imperative to help those most in need, ensuring equal access to quality care.
5. Can represent ‘better value for money’. Despite the difficulty in assessing whether integration leads to ‘value for money’, it still holds promise because the evaluation of integrated care is still an evolving and emerging field. There is some evidence that better coordination can save money and improve quality for certain clients. This is based on the premise that breaking down barriers and working as a well-coordinated team leads to more efficient delivery of services. It allows care professionals to make better use of existing resources by avoiding duplication and ensuring that people receive the right care in the right place, at the right time. Particularly, those initiatives that use reliable data to identify clients most at risk of deterioration seem to be cost-effective.
6. Fosters a motivated and satisfied workforce. Through better coordination, integrated care can free up valuable space and time for staff to focus on what they are good at, expand their skills and their scope of practice. This results in patients receiving better care, but it also means staff careers feel more rewarded and potential gaps in the workforce can be addressed.
You can find the extended version of the 6 top reasons in book 5 ‘Advocacy tool’ of the roadmap.
How can integrated care for older people in Europe What works in improving integrated care for older people? The European project SUSTAIN (Sustained tailored integrated care for older people in Europe) was concerned with this question. In this project, researchers, policy advisors and other partners from eight participating European countries analysed initiatives in the field of integrated care for older people living at home. The roadmap is their end product and enables policy and decision-makers to design and improve integrated care in their own community.
The SUSTAIN project was funded under Horizon 2020 – the Framework Program for Research and Innovation (2014-2020).