What is an integrated approach to care?

We understand the difficult task healthcare directors have at the moment. With the current state of mental health services in the NHS and with added pressure on the private sector, healthcare directors are expected to improve patient care whilst increasing staff retention and reducing costs. In other words, healthcare directors are expected to work miracles.

The government recognises the need for integration as you can read in this report by the House of Commons on how Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) aim to bring together NHS and local government services, but unresolved challenges, lack of leadership, and potential focus issues may hinder their success and impact on health outcomes. 

However, the system is plagued by longstanding challenges that remain unresolved and long term solutions might seem too costly. Hopefully, by the end of this article you will find that, actually, an integrated approach to care can cost you less in the long run.

Of course, implementing an integrated approach to care can be challenging due to various factors, including fragmented healthcare systems, resistance to change, resource constraints, cultural differences, legal barriers, and varying organisational structures which can hinder the integration of services. However, you are playing the long game here towards long-term changes, patient recovery and overall patient and organisational health.

As a healthcare director, you are worried about patient satisfaction and adherence to treatment. The increased strain on your resources and budgets puts pressure on you to find quick alternatives and the legal and regulatory consequences in cases of adverse patient outcomes make you lose sleep, not to mention the difficulty to attract and retain skilled healthcare professionals. 

It is a complex problem that we have experience resolving both within the NHS and the private sector. 

With over 20 years of combined experience in delivering psychological services within the NHS and private industries, we have helped hundreds of people achieve long term positive outcomes. Our expertise and empathetic approach set us apart as authorities in the field of integrative care systems. We believe that true healing goes beyond treating mental health diagnoses which is why we wrote this article. That’s why we want to give you all the information you need to improve patient outcomes whilst reducing costs.

Therefore, this article will explore:

  • What is integrated care
  • Why is integrated care better?
  • What are the types of integrated care
  • What is an example of an integrated care
  • Your next steps to implementing an integrated care system in your hospital or recovery clinic

What is integrated care?

According to the NHS, an integrated approach to healthcare must “be person-centred, coordinated, and tailored to the needs and preferences of the individual, their carer and family. It means moving away from episodic care to a more holistic approach to health, care and support needs, that puts the needs and experience of people at the centre of how services are organised and delivered.” 

Key elements of an integrated approach to care include: 

  1. Coordination: Collaboration among healthcare providers (eg., psychologists, social workers, nurses, pharmacists) to ensure that all aspects of a patient’s care are well-coordinated. This may involve sharing medical records, test results, and treatment plans across various settings.
  2. Patient-centeredness: The patient is placed at the centre of care and their preferences, values, and goals are considered when making decisions. Patients should feel empowered to have a voice and to participate in the process. 
  3. Continuity: Providing uninterrupted care over time, with smooth transitions between different settings. 
  4. Prevention and early intervention: Regular screenings, health education, and early identification of symptoms to prevent them from worsening. 
  5. Comprehensive care: Addressing the full range of a patient’s health needs, physical, mental, and social aspects. A holistic approach is essential to promote wellness and prevent illness. 

Why is integrated care better?

According to an in-depth study titled The effects of integrated care: a systematic review of UK and international evidence, integrated care leads to increased patient satisfaction; secondly, that integration increases perceived quality of care; and thirdly, that integrated care increases patient access to services. UK-only evidence indicated that patient waiting time and outpatient appointments may be reduced.

With an integrated approach, different mental health professionals and service providers coordinate and collaborate, reducing the risk of fragmented care and ensuring that interventions are consistent across providers – improving patient outcomes.

The patient experience is enhanced as integrated care acknowledges that their mental health needs are unique. The individual is involved in the treatment planning process, their goals, values, and preferences are considered. This personalised approach increases engagement and empowers the individual. 

Integrated care emphasises ongoing support and follow-up. This continuity of care reduces risk of relapse, provides opportunities for early intervention, and supports long-term recovery and well-being. Long-term recovery is essential to ensure individuals are not returning to services again, reducing healthcare costs. 

What are the types of integration of care?

Mental health services that offer an integrated approach to care will consider the various dimensions of a person’s well-being, for example, psychological as well as physical well-being. Coordinating and combining different healthcare providers, services, and settings ensures seamless and continuous care for patients. 

Examples of integrated care systems

A popular integrated care system within the NHS is Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT). Have a look at a comprehensive guide on how to set up a IAPT programme here. This program provides evidence-based psychological therapies for anxiety and depression. IAPT is considered an integrated care system because it aims to combine mental health services into primary care settings. Historically, mental health services have been separate from general healthcare, leading to fragmented care and barriers to access. IAPT was established to bridge this gap and provide a more integrated approach to mental healthcare. 

IAPT promotes integration by:

  1. Collaborating with Primary Care: IAPT services are delivered within general practices or community clinics. IAPT promotes collaboration and communication between various professionals, allowing for a coordinated approach to patient care.
  2. Using a Stepped Care Model: A stepped care approach involves delivering the least intrusive and most appropriate intervention at the outset and then progressing to more intensive treatment if necessary. IAPT ensures that the individual receives the right level of care based on their needs. 
  3. Establishing clear care pathways: Protocols and guidelines for assessment, treatment, and referral processes have been designed to ensure a standardized and coordinated approach across different settings. These pathways facilitate smoother transitions and improve continuity of care. 

A few ways mental health services can implement an integrated approach to care include:

  • Involving a team of professionals from different disciplines: This team may include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and other specialists. Each professional brings their expertise to provide a holistic understanding of the individual’s condition and to offer a range of treatment options. These professionals also collaborate to develop a comprehensive treatment plan.
  • Conducting a holistic assessment: Considering the individual’s physical, emotional, social, and psychological well-being is key to an integrated approach. A holistic assessment goes beyond just diagnosing mental health conditions. Assessments can include a physical health evaluation and social support system enquiry to gain a broader understanding of the individual’s needs.
  • Engaging individuals with the wider community: Integrated care recognises the role of the broader community in supporting mental health. This involves providing support services that go beyond the clinical setting, collaborating with community organisations, schools, and other relevant stakeholders to promote mental health awareness and reduce stigma. 
  • Providing a range of treatment modalities: This may include medication management, talking therapy, group therapy, exercise programmes, nutrition programmes, art therapy – offering a variety of evidence-based treatment modalities addresses the individual as a whole. 

Another example of integrated care is our own model. Here at RESET we offer an evidence-based integrative biopsychosocial approach. The RESET model is based on the concept that the mind, body (physical health), and environment are inherently interconnected. 

At RESET, we look at the individual as a whole (physical and mental health), recognise their uniqueness, and emphasise the importance of working collaboratively – adopting a person-centred and integrated approach. 

Your next steps to implementing an integrated care system in your hospital or recovery clinic

In this article, you learned about the benefits of an integrated approach to care, which can lead to increased patient satisfaction, improved quality of care, and enhanced access to services. We explored key elements of integrated care, such as coordination, patient-centeredness, continuity, prevention, and comprehensive care.

You came to this article seeking clarity on what is an integrated approach to care and how this can help you improve patient care, staff retention and recruitment all the while reducing costs. We have provided insights into the importance of an integrated care system and how it can positively impact patient outcomes while doing just that.

At RESET, with over 20 years of combined experience in delivering psychological services, we offer an evidence-based integrative biopsychosocial approach. We emphasize the interconnectedness of the mind, body, and environment in promoting holistic well-being.

Either you choose RESET, a CIC or a consultancy firm as your partner in this journey, the path towards integrated care will require commitment, collaboration, and adaptation. And regardless of whether you choose to do business with us or not, we just want you to have all the information you need to make the right decision for your healthcare service.

As experienced authorities in the field of integrative care systems with a track record of helping hundreds of individuals achieve positive outcomes, we are confident that we can help you wisely invest the time and resources to transform your work environment and as a result improve patient care and reduce costs.

If you are not ready to speak to our sales team yet, learn more about how to hire (and retain) Clinical Psychologists.

But if you are ready, email us at hello@theresethealthgroup.com and get a free assessment and a quote.

Msc Saiyuri Naidu is a Senior Assistant Psychologist at the RESET Health Group and an MSc Clinical Psychology Graduate with a special interest in trauma and how this can affect an individual’s mind and body. 

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What is an integrated approach to care?