Integrated care for the elderly is an important theme not only in the Netherlands, but in other countries as well. This is because of several social developments:
- Elderly stay and want to live at home longer.
- Care requests are more complex.
- More and more care providers are involved resulting in a loss of oversight between clients and professionals.
- An increase in the awareness of negative side effects caused by silos in long-term care, such as inefficient care provision and the risk of medication interactions. By silos in care, we mean situations where care professionals are working within the boundaries of their own discipline, which stands in the way of demand-oriented care.
An informal carer: ‘I feel that the current system is a labyrinth in which it is easy to lose continuity of care and which results in a higher risk of adverse events. I experienced this situation with my mother in which going to different consultations led to misinformation and duplication of medication.’
This example illustrates the necessity to move from a fragmented system, in which everything is present, to a coherent platform of care and services that really suits the needs of people. However, before we can look for answers, we first need to know what we mean by integrated care, sometimes known as integral care.
What is integrated care?
Integrated care is about organising care and support around the person who needs it. It is a person-centred approach that is designed together with the client in order to meet his needs and wishes, so he can live his life to the fullest.
Director of Vilans, Henk Nies: ‘I think integrated care is a very useful and important concept because we have more and more people in society with multiple needs in various domains of life. If we provide care and support in silos and deal separately with the various aspects of a person’s life, it may run contrary to the needs and the interests of that person. In order to solve this problem we need a department or ministry that does not operate in silos. We need to have good research and implementation programs from which we can learn. We need to have professionals and organisations that are willing to experiment with a good base of knowledge behind them in order to provide the best outcomes. Finally, we need strong patients and patient organisations who can say what is useful to them or not, and what contributes to the quality of their lives and what does not.’
Also interesting: read the article ‘6 reasons for integrated care’.
Integrated care and technology
Technology can also be an important part of integrated care. But technology in itself means nothing. Health care is a human process and technology is useless when there is no focus on the needs of the elderly and their informal caregivers. Watch the video ‘Integrated care and technology’.