As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, so does the concept of an integrated healthcare system. In 2023, integrated healthcare is poised to take on an increasingly important role in health care delivery, as healthcare providers seek to improve outcomes, enhance patient experiences, and contain costs.
The integration of physical and mental health care, emphasis on providing whole-person patient care, and the use of technology to facilitate communication among healthcare providers are just a few of the trends that are shaping the future of integrated healthcare.
What Is Integrated Care?
Integrated care is a coordinated and comprehensive approach to healthcare delivery that involves the collaboration of different healthcare providers and disciplines to provide holistic care to patients. Integrated care brings together various healthcare providers, such as primary care physicians, nurses, social workers, therapists, and other allied health professionals, to work together as a team to provide patient-centered care.
In an integrated care initiative, healthcare providers work together to address the physical, mental, and social needs of the patient. They share information and coordinate care to ensure that the patient receives the appropriate treatment at the right time and in the right setting. The goal of integrated care is to provide seamless and continuous care to patients throughout their healthcare journey, including diagnosis, treatment, follow-up care, and beyond.
Integrated care may be delivered in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, community health centers, and long-term care facilities. It may also involve the use of technology, such as electronic health records, telemedicine, and other digital tools to support communication and collaboration among healthcare professionals.
Benefits of Integrated Care
Because an integrated healthcare system treats the patient’s overall health and well-being, there are plenty of benefits for both the patient and their care providers. The most important benefit is that integrated care helps healthcare professionals provide the best care possible by treating the whole person — and not just their symptoms.
Not only does coordinated care between providers automatically allow the patient to receive better treatment, but addressing their physical and mental health at the same time improves overall well-being. This type of care ensures that treatment plans do not conflict with one another.
Better Quality of Care
Integrated care has been shown to improve patient outcomes, including reduced hospital admissions, lower mortality rates, and provide better management of chronic conditions. Providers are able to better meet the patient’s care needs because they can work together as team members to determine the best treatment that meets their physical, mental, and behavioral health needs.
Treatment initiatives under the integrated health care model consider every aspect of the patient’s lives, from social aspects to the workplace, to provide superior care that actually accommodates their lifestyle.
When done correctly, integrated healthcare systems increase the efficiency of care. When there’s proper care coordination, the patient has to explain their situation less, because everyone on their healthcare team knows what needs to be diagnosed or treated. Ideally, it eliminates the need to provide a full patient and family history at every appointment. It can also be more cost-effective for patients by eliminating unnecessary and redundant doctor appointments.
Better Case Management
The integrated approach to care is especially important when it comes to complex or chronic health conditions. It’s not just about referrals; integrated health care brings together a team of care providers with different areas of expertise to provide more comprehensive and effective treatment.
Some health conditions have lengthy or complicated treatment plans, so care must consider how it affects lifestyle and other aspects of health. Integrated care is also critical for chronic health issues where multiple treatment options have been tested over time. With integrated care, providers know what has or hasn’t worked in the past in order to provide better care.
With your healthcare team working together, it’s much easier to achieve early identification and treatment of health issues, potentially preventing them from becoming more serious. Team members work together to screen issues and evaluate test results.
High-Quality Patient Experience
At the end of the day, integrated health care improves the overall patient care experience by relieving the typical stressors of seeking health care. It can be extremely frustrating for patients to continuously explain their symptoms and health history to new doctors at every appointment. Integrated care eliminates that issue, since care providers are familiar with your situation — getting you straight to meeting your health care needs.
Whole-Person Patient Care
Healthcare systems fail when they only focus on one or two aspects of the patient. True healing needs to address the whole person, including both physical and mental health issues. Mental health issues cause physical ailments, and vice versa. When you only address one or the other, you can’t increase your overall well-being.
How Integrated Care Has Evolved
Integrated healthcare has evolved significantly over the years, driven by changes in healthcare policy, advances in technology, and the recognition of coordinated care for patients.
Advances in technology, such as electronic health records, telemedicine, and mobile health apps, have enabled healthcare providers to communicate and collaborate more effectively, which has facilitated the delivery of integrated care. Telehealth has become extremely popular in the last few years, allowing patients to see doctors they otherwise may not have been able to see due to their location.
Today, integrated healthcare is becoming increasingly important in health care delivery, with a growing recognition of the need for coordinated and comprehensive care. The adoption of electronic health records and other technologies is also enabling greater communication and collaboration among healthcare providers, supporting the development of integrated healthcare models that can improve patient outcomes and reduce costs.
Integrated Health Care in 2023
Integrated healthcare in 2023 is likely to continue to evolve and adapt to changes in healthcare policy, technology, and patient needs. Here are some potential trends and developments in integrated health care that we may see in 2023:
- Expansion of telemedicine and virtual care: Telemedicine and virtual care have become an increasingly important healthcare delivery system, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic — and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. In an integrated healthcare model, telemedicine and virtual care can facilitate communication and collaboration among healthcare providers, as well as enable patients to receive care from the comfort of their own homes. Plus, virtual care allows patients to meet with specialists beyond those immediately around them.
- Greater emphasis on social determinants of health: Healthcare providers are increasingly recognizing the importance of social determinants of health, such as poverty, housing, and education, in shaping health outcomes. In an integrated healthcare model, providers may work with community organizations and social service agencies to address these social determinants and provide more comprehensive care.
- Adoption of blockchain technology: Blockchain technology has the potential to improve the security and accessibility of patient data, as well as enable more efficient and transparent healthcare transactions. In an integrated healthcare model, blockchain could be used to securely share patient data among healthcare providers and support the development of value-based payment models.
- Shift towards patient empowerment: Patients are becoming increasingly engaged in their own health and wellness, and are seeking more control over their care. In an integrated healthcare model, providers work to empower patients by providing them with access to their own health data, enabling them to make informed decisions about their care, and involving them in the development of care plans.
Integrated health care in 2023 is likely to continue to prioritize collaboration, communication, and a patient-centered approach to care, while also leveraging new technologies and addressing social determinants of health.
Mental Health Services With Physical Treatments
Research shows that poor mental health takes a toll on your physical health, too. It becomes obvious when you look at the symptoms of any mental condition. Anxiety can cause sleeping problems, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and even gastrointestinal issues. Depression can lead to drastic weight change, chronic pain, and tiredness; it can also affect hand-eye coordination (psychomotor activity). Many other mental health conditions, such as mood disorders or ADHD, also have similar physical indicators.
A primary care physician who has no insight into your mental health may see these symptoms and start on the wrong path toward finding a diagnosis. Integrated care providers know your mental health history and talk with you, so they would be able to detect a mental disorder when physical symptoms start. In this case, your primary care physician would immediately know to look for additional signs of depression instead of simply treating the physical symptoms (and ultimately not addressing the real issue).
Physical Conditions Affecting Mental Health
When someone is diagnosed with a new health condition, they immediately start treatment. Many physicians stop there and just address that physical issue and its symptoms. An integrated healthcare model takes that diagnosis a step forward. Hearing a hard diagnosis is a traumatic experience in and of itself, especially for those with difficult or long-term treatment plans.
Because integrated care looks at the whole person, a difficult diagnosis should also incorporate meeting with a therapist to talk about how the news has affected them. Health conditions affect a person’s entire life, from their relationships and work to their social life and family, and therapy can help them through this transition.
Behavioral health services, such as mental health counseling, psychiatry, family counseling, and addiction treatment, are all closely connected to physical health. Incorporating these services with other physical treatments promotes healing for the mind and the body at the same time.
It doesn’t have to be a serious medical condition to affect your mental health. Athletes who get injured aren’t able to play their sport, meaning their life is changed – even if it is just temporary. They aren’t able to participate and they see their team members less and less until they are healthy.
Injured athletes, especially collegiate and professional players whose lives revolve around their sport, suddenly can’t go to practice. Their whole daily routine is interrupted. Plus, they still attend games, watching their team members continue to play while they cannot. Not only are they physically hurt, but talking with a mental health professional helps them deal with the other aspects of their health.
Integrated Health Care Services in Practice
It’s one thing to just know what integrated care is, but what does it look like in practice? Meridian HealthCare utilizes integrated care to treat the whole person. This means that primary care physicians at Meridian can also send their patients to see a therapist to discuss their mental health or to the chiropractor to address pains or other ailments. And that’s just the start! Let’s take a closer look at exactly what an integrated healthcare system looks like.
Primary care is the cog that moves the wheel when it comes to your overall health. Good primary care physicians know everything about your health, both physical and mental. They also know about your lifestyle so they can properly determine a treatment plan. Even with something little like a bacterial infection, your physician knows your lifestyle well enough to prescribe something that doesn’t hinder other aspects of your life. For example, a single parent who is the sole provider for their children can’t be prescribed anything that would affect their ability to operate a car or otherwise hinder child care.
At Meridian, our primary care providers have a variety of services at their disposal that can be incorporated to help patients. Mental health services can alleviate stress, depression, and any other mental health condition present. Chiropractic care and acupuncture can be incorporated to relieve pain without medication. Addiction services are also available whenever needed.
Mental health services are commonly included in integrated health care plans. Mental health directly affects a person’s overall well-being. Physical health issues lead to mental health problems and mental health conditions have physical symptoms.
At Meridian, therapy is added to treatment plans to help in the treatment process and to assist the patient’s overall well-being. Therapy can help primary care patients deal with hard diagnoses or relieve stress and other physical symptoms. Oftentimes, the same health condition that sends a patient to the chiropractor or acupuncturist (such as chronic pain or stress) may benefit from talking to a therapist. Mental health also plays a huge role in addiction recovery services.
Chiropractic treatment is often used in conjunction with acupuncture to relieve pain without medication. While the two services have some overlap in benefits, they both can address some very unique health issues. This makes combining the two services an extra benefit. Chiropractic treatment can also help relieve stress, so those struggling with mental health may benefit greatly from visiting the chiropractor.
Acupuncture is often added to chiropractic treatment as a way to extend pain relief without medication. Care providers also recommend acupuncture for its multitude of other benefits, including addressing ailments like stress, a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, and menstrual cramps.
Acupuncture is a safe and effective way to reduce nausea caused by cancer treatments and pregnancy (which gives these patients access to relief despite being able to utilize other services and medications due to their condition). Acupuncture is sometimes the only thing that can reduce that nausea for those patients.
Addiction Recovery Services
Recovery patients can benefit significantly from an integrated healthcare plan. Those suffering from substance use disorder can benefit from mental health services as well as chiropractic and acupuncture. Therapy allows them to learn about their triggers and how to avoid them. It also helps in adapting to the transition of sober life. Therapy is offered in both our outpatient and inpatient treatment programs.
Chiropractic and acupuncture services are used to help recovery, as well. Both services help relieve pain without medication, which is especially helpful for those in recovery. They also have mental health benefits to relieve anxiety, depression, stress, and insomnia — all helping in the recovery process.
Primary care is often combined with addiction recovery in integrated healthcare. For those in recovery, it is especially important for their primary care physician to understand their history and where they are in their recovery journey. In order to receive reliable care, care providers must have a solid understanding of the recovery process so that their other diagnoses and treatments can be accurate and helpful.
Try Integrated Health Care at Meridian
Meridian HealthCare implements an integrated healthcare model to provide whole-person patient care to everyone that walks through the door. Recovery patients are able to see a primary care physician who understands their situation. Those seeking mental health services can utilize chiropractic and acupuncture services to aid in their treatment. Primary care patients can go to therapy to talk through their health issues.
When you’re ready to feel all the benefits of an integrated healthcare system, call Meridian HealthCare today to schedule an appointment.