According to the World Health Organization, integrated care—or, more specifically, integrated service delivery—is defined as “the organization and management of health services so that people get the care they need, when they need it, in ways that are user-friendly, achieve the desired results and provide value for money.”

There are five variations of integrated care, including:

  1. When integrated care refers to a package of preventative and curative health interventions for a particular population group. These groups are often distinguished by their stage in a life cycle—pediatrics, adolescents, adults, and so on. The aim of this type of integrated care is to allow for patients to receive all of the treatments they need in a “one-stop-shop” format.
  2. When integrated care refers to achieving continuity of care over time. This can mean lifelong care for chronic diseases—Crohn’s disease, HIV, AIDS—or a continuum of care across stages of a person’s life cycle—antenatal, postnatal, new born, and child care.
  3. When integrated care refers to the vertical integration of different levels of service. In this instance, an overall manager is charge of a network of facilities. Both personal and non-personal health services fall under this purview. Deciding what services should be provided where, and how to recommend patients efficiently is a key task for said manager. An issue arises in this form of integration when it comes to private and voluntary providers—how can they be mixed in to a public system?
  4. When integrated care refers to integrated policy-making and management, which is organized to bring together decisions about different parts of the health services at different levels. There are three levels to this:
    1. Provincial: Where a management team in an integrated system might have overall responsibility and access to the health status of a given population, allowing them to simultaneously contract services from public, voluntary and private sectors
    2. District: Supervision would be integrated. All of a health center’s work would be measured by a standardized checklist.
    3. National: Ideal for countries with numerous development partners, nationally based policies and management help on both a financial and statistical level.
  5. When integrated care refers to working across sectors. This type of care happens when there are institutionalized mechanisms to enable cross-sectorial funding, regulation or service delivery—like the coordination of health and social services.

RELATED: Developing a Care Team: Who Are The Main Players?

How Integrated Care Relates to Collaborative Care

With these types of integrated care in mind, understanding where collaborative care fits into its variety of types becomes a somewhat easier task. By definition, collaborative care "integrates mental health and primary care to provide patient-centered, comprehensive, accountable care." It specifically refers to the blending of mental and physical healthcare in order to achieve that goal.

Collaborative care takes, in a sense, the best parts of each variation of integrated care and improves upon them. It is, after all, one of the most successful forms of integrated care currently being used in the healthcare industry—12 states and 3 countries have had highly effective plans in place since the early 2000s.

The end result is improved workflow and higher rates of successful patient outcomes--something every healthcare provider dreams of.

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Laura Slade

Written by Laura Slade