The Benefits of Integrated Healthcare

The Benefits of Integrated Healthcare

According to a 10-year study conducted by Intermountain Healthcare researchers, patients receiving care in team-based practices integrating mental and physical healthcare services had better clinical outcomes, lower total costs and had to use fewer healthcare services.  The study was focused on the impact of delivering integrated medical and physical healthcare in team-based primary care settings.  Researchers measured 113,452 adult patients who received care from 2003 through 2013 in 113 primary care practices in Intermountain, in addition to 27 team-based medical practices and 75 traditional practices.  

As a result of the integrated mental healthcare model, Intermountain researchers found that a higher rate of patients in team-based practices were screened for depression, allowing care providers to provide medical and behavioral interventions earlier, in comparison to patients in more traditional practices.  As a result, 46 percent of patients in team-based practices were diagnosed with active depression, compared to just 24 percent in more traditional practices.  The findings of the study indicated that more patients in team-based practices adhered to diabetes care protocols, including regular blood glucose testing.  In addition, nearly half of patients in team-based practices had a documented self-care plan to help them manage their health conditions, compared to just 8 percent in traditional practices.  

In addition, the researchers discovered that the integrated mental healthcare resulted in fewer rates of utilization, reducing emergency room visits by 23 percent.  The rate of hospital admissions was 9.5 for patients in team-based practices compared with 10.6 in traditional practices.  It also discovered that an integrated model resulted in lower total costs, offering savings of about 3.3 percent.  

Before this study, there wasn’t much evidence available to support the effectiveness of the integrated healthcare model.  This study reinforces the value of coordinated team relationships within a delivery system, as well as the importance of integrating physical and mental healthcare.  From a mental health perspective, it also provides further evidence of the idea that better care doesn’t have to be more expensive.  

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