In this edition of “What They’re Watching”, Marc Avery, MD, principal at Health Management Associates (HMA), discusses what integrated care means to him and how the COVID-19 pandemic has brought this care approach to the forefront.
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According to Avery, integrated care is a series of system transformation efforts that are meant to address some of the pain points in the health care system in order to create healthier communities. He said the concept of integrated care includes multiple components that fit together seamlessly, like a jigsaw puzzle.
“Integrated care isn’t just taking two things and joining them together. It’s taking several concepts and getting them all to work together seamlessly … And those [concepts] would include working together as a team, and sharing tasks efficiently across various team members. [This would occur] while everyone on that team is simultaneously taking a person-centered approach to health care … Another way of saying that is welcoming the client or patient to be part of the health care team.”
The other solutions that fit into the jigsaw puzzle of integrated care, said Avery, are things like incorporating measurement-based care and evidence-based practices, as well as a population approach to care to make sure that nobody in the system is falling through the cracks.
Avery also mentioned the impact of COVID-19 on integrated care, asserting that COVID-19 had simply exacerbated and made more apparent the numerous pain points already present in the health care system. He specifically emphasized behavioral health workforce shortages.
He said principles of integrated care had to be applied in response to the pandemic, but this also posed new challenges with the shift to a virtual environment.
“How do you provide person-centered care? That’s a little bit less challenging when you’re seeing a patient in person. It’s more difficult when you’re seeing someone over a remote connection. How do you do task-sharing? When you’re two different clinicians on a team deciding who does what, [task-sharing] is critically important when you’re doing the services over telehealth, because you really just don’t have any time to waste.”