Integrated care is regarded as the best response to new challenges in health care delivery, which has risen due to aging population, increased prevalence of chronic diseases and multi-morbidity for the gain in quality of care and efficiency. There are a number of health care settings which provide integrated care across Europe; however there are a series of different approaches. Current initiatives are usually highly context-specific, focusing on a specific group of patients in local healthcare and social protection systems, what makes their transfer and scaling up rather difficult. Additionally, the complex nature of integrated care, its multifaceted interactions and range of professionals involved create significant difficulties to draw generalized guidelines for benchmarking integrate care.
‘European Union´s Seventh Framework Programme Project INTEGRATE: Benchmarking Integrated Care for better Management of Chronic and Age-related Conditions in Europe’ aims to obtain valuable insights into integrated care delivery and management in order to translate them into managerial and also policy recommendations.
To achieve its goal, the Project INTEGRATE was organised into three Phases.
- Phase 1, of the project finalized in 2014, was based on the study of evidence on care delivery from four established EU integrated care practices: COPD (Hospital Clinic, Spain), Diabetes (Tilburg University, two care groups, the Netherlands), Geriatric Care (Charité Geriatric Center, Germany), and Mental Conditions (Karolinska Institute, Sweden). These four case studies, two diseases and two general conditions, represent the diversity of European health systems, two with tax-based and the other two with insurance-based healthcare systems. That allowed to gain understanding of integrated care in different settings and has added insights to the second phase of the project. Application of the common methodological framework to all four cases enabled distillation of key factors of good practice in integrated care.
- In phase 2 we took up the learnings from the first phase as basis of the horizontal topics that looked in to the process design and service delivery, workforce changes, patient involvement, funding flows and regulatory conditions, while also analyzing how the full potential of enabling information technologies can be realised in better aligning the cure and care sectors. In each of these topics the analysis is complemented by literature reviews and expert discussions. Project INTEGRATE partners are currently finalizing Phase 2 and are expected to present findings by May 2015.
- Phase 3 is aimed to consolidate the evidence, compare it with international evidence and draw operational and policy recommendations. It will start in June 2015 and finalize by September 2016, the end of the project.
We believe that Project INTEGRATE can make a real difference in what is understanding of integrated care, and contribute to better transfer of good practices and scaling up. It will also give insights in how we can better design care process, identify needs of professional capacity building, involve patients in the care process, redefine financial flows and regulatory issues and see how IT can better support this innovative way of addressing the health systems most pressing issues: the increase in ageing and chronic conditions. The managerial and policy recommendations should provide guidelines for Member States and reform willing regions and institutions to successfully implement an innovative integrated care.
During the project timeline members of the Project INTEGRATE consortium will keep readers of The Project INTEGRATE Newsletter informed about recent project developments.”
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the European Commission (GA.305821- Project INTEGRATE).
Senior lecturer in the Department of Production,
Technology and Operations Management
IESE Business School, Spain