“Integration” has become one of those buzzwords you see everywhere, especially when it comes to health & wellness. Like so many popular terms, it’s often misused and not always totally understood.
The World Health Organization defines integrated healthcare as a concept bringing together inputs, delivery, management and organization of services related to diagnosis, treatment, care, rehabilitation and health promotion.
What that means in plain language is that healthcare professionals – doctors, nurses, psychologists, dietitians, etc., work together on a patient file to ensure the patient is actually receiving appropriate treatment for their ailments.
As you can probably imagine, this model is much more effective than what came before it. You’ve no doubt had the experience of visiting your family doctor, then being sent to a specialist, then to another specialist, then back to your doctor. The lag time tends to be significant as you wait for appointments and results, and it’s evident that – though your test results and diagnoses are shared – no conversation has occurred about potential treatment or overall well-being.
You can also see how the potential for medical error would be much higher with this older, more siloed model.
The same can also be said of allied health practitioners: physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, occupational therapists, naturopathic physicians and acupuncturists. Say, for instance, you have an episode of low back pain and come in to visit a chiropractor. This is a great choice; however, there are other great choices too. Sometimes one discipline is more appropriate than another depending on the particulars of the patient presentation. Very often a combination of services, or a progression from one service to another--say massage to physio--offers a uniquely thorough treatment that is more than the sum of its parts.
This is exactly why we opted for an integrated approach at Tall Tree. Our practitioners are always in communication about what they do and how they do it, to ensure everyone who works here is able to refer out to one another.
And it goes further than that – with the patient's consent, clinicians will discuss and partner on treatment options. The efficiency and lowered risk is pretty noticeable, not just at our clinic, but in the wider world of healthcare. In fact, this may just be the model that changes our current, fractured healthcare system for the better.
While the initial set-up of any kind of integration in healthcare can be time-consuming and expensive up front, the benefits far outweigh that cost. Buzzword or no, integration’s proving to be a pretty healthy process.