The American Hospital Association says that clinical integration is needed to “facilitate the coordination of patient care across conditions, providers, settings, and time …” to achieve “safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable, and patient-focused” care.
Awareness of the need to integrate emergency medicine (EM), hospital medicine (HM), and other care modalities is not new. However, it has become increasingly important in the current health care environment due to intensified staffing shortages, the shift to a consumer mindset among patients, and the transition to value-based care.
Rising costs also force health care systems to look at alternative care models to achieve better patient outcomes and care quality while maintaining profitability. To drive change, the Affordable Care Act created new reimbursement models that reward clinical efficiency and improved care outcomes.
Given the obvious need, let’s examine the potential benefits of clinical integration and how to make it work in your organization.
Benefits of Clinical Integration
Directs Care to the Appropriate Setting
Clinical integration shifts care to lower-cost settings. It enhances patient access to primary care services and minimizes avoidable ED utilization.
Connects Care Across the Continuum
Integration improves clinician collaboration and coordination across care sites and departments (EM, HM, ICU, etc.). It also strengthens the implementation of and adherence to evidence-based processes.
Improves Performance Metrics
Another benefit to integrating care is its effect on performance metrics. Specifically, clinical integration increases inter-departmental throughput, reducing transition and follow-up care gaps, and enhancing patient experience and satisfaction.
Other performance metrics-related benefits include reduced inpatient readmission rates and fewer unnecessary or repeat diagnostics.
Successful clinical integration makes it easier to boost productivity and reduce expenses without compromising patient care.
6 Steps to Making Clinical Integration Work for Your Organization
1. Commit to Clinical Performance Infrastructure and Initiatives Across All Departments
Clinical performance infrastructure is foundational to promoting improved standards of care and well-being for all patients. Integrating performance initiatives also promotes efficiency and concentrates funding and other resources on programs most likely to produce substantial overall benefits.
2. Establish a Joint Operations Committee to Align Incentives and Management
The joint operations committee (JOC) is a collaborative multi-disciplinary meeting designed to facilitate communication and teamwork among all stakeholders, including emergency medicine, hospital medicine, nursing, quality, case management, and others.
The reason for establishing a JOC is that many facilities lack a formal place for sharing ideas and formulating plans. A JOC gives clinical teams a structured way to work together that encourages communication and multi-disciplinary perspectives on challenges both clinicians and patients face.
Its primary purpose is to identify areas for improvement, put patient care protocols in place, and facilitate rapid-cycle changes through an iterative approach that optimizes patient care.
3. Build a Workforce of Clinicians Able to Deliver Evidence-Based, Coordinated Care
Combining the best available evidence with a workforce comprised of experienced clinicians along with patients’ values and preferences in making informed health care decisions is the goal of every hospital. Coordinating such evidence-based care through clinical integration improves health outcomes and ensures care is not delivered by disparate providers in silos.
4. Invest in Effective Leadership Development to Encourage Communication and Collaboration
Effective communication is critical to productivity in any industry, but even more so in health care, where multiple people provide care to an individual patient. One communication breakdown could result in severe consequences for patients and hospitals alike.
Establishing a collaborative culture and encouraging open communication among team members is the job of hospital leadership. Hospitals and health systems must invest in education and requisite skill development to ensure leaders can carry out this vital responsibility.
5. Provide Resources to Support Targeted Metric Improvement
Quality metrics provide essential insight into areas of patient safety or clinical performance that may benefit from improvement.
6. Collect and Analyze Patient and Performance Data to Track Trends and Patterns
Data analytics discovers associations in patterns and trends within the data, potentially improving care, increasing satisfaction, streamlining operations, and lowering costs. Collecting and analyzing patient and performance data can also lead to more accurate diagnoses, personalized treatment, and informed decision-making.
Related Article: Using Data to Improve Patient Experience
Clinical integration requires a commitment from both health care organizations and the clinical care team. The payoff benefits everyone — better patient outcomes, higher clinician satisfaction and retention, and improved hospital efficiencies and reimbursement.
SCP Health places great value on ensuring every patient’s seamless continuum of care. That’s why we offer scalable health care solutions that integrate hospital medicine, emergency medicine, critical care, urgent care, and other care modalities supported by proprietary technology and data insights.