REDESIGNING CARE DELIVERY: IMPROVING THE PATIENT EXPERIENCE AND SYSTEM EFFICIENCY
What if healthcare systems were tailored to patient needs, instead of being organised in specialist silos? This concept is called “integrated care”. Integrated care can take many forms, but the principle remains the same: rather than centering on specialist diseases or the primary care/specialist care binary, it places the patient at the heart of the healthcare system. Coordination between diagnosis and treatment and between primary care and secondary care, as well as between different therapeutic areas and disease specialties, is a key component of integrated care, and one of its main benefits for patients.
Two distinctions can be drawn: horizontal integration, in which healthcare providers merge services, and vertical integration, in which healthcare providers work through networks and alliances. Studies on horizontal integration are mixed, as hospital mergers can end in higher prices for patients. Horizontal integration, when well-managed and coordinated has clear benefits.
Integrated care can also take place according to specialty or target-specific therapeutic areas. The benefits of integrated care are numerous: patients’ records are centralised, care is continuous and coordinated and the team works together to address complex needs and situations. As a result, the patient is more likely to be in the best care setting for his condition and his outcomes are likely to be better.
Nonetheless, the complexity of healthcare systems in individual countries and regions adds to the challenge of achieving integrated care, so there is no one best approach. Benefits of integrated care models, however, are clear – improved outcomes, established chains of prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care across the system.
Turkey’s Early Arthritis Clinic in the city of Gaziantep demonstrates one way in which integrated care can improve cost-effectiveness and quality of care for patients. To help alleviate the €4.3 billion cost burden of rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and other major chronic musculoskeletal diseases, the Early Arthritis Clinic educated family physicians about the disease to improve accuracy of referral by over 34%, leading to significant improvements in health system efficiency. The project is being scaled up to another clinic in the city of Bursa with the aid of Turkey’s Ministry of Health.
EU Whitepaper 20-pager on the pilot programmes
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