An integrated care system provides seamless, coordinated care across different levels of the health system from prevention to end of life, according to patient needs over time.
For rural communities, integrated care is particularly important. Rural residents need treatments that consider their immediate medical concerns, their physical environment, as well as their social and financial situation.
It would be challenging for a single organization or health clinic to address all these needs. By collaborating with others, rural health care organizations can offer a wider range of services that address the social determinants of health.
Patients will know when a health care system is integrated when they:
- Do not have to repeat their health story for each provider encounter. Instead, their health information flows to all of their providers through a single health record
- Experience coordinated and collaborative care
- Do not have to undergo the same test multiple times for different providers
- Have 24-hour access to a primary care provider
- Have easy-to-understand information about their health condition, treatment options, and expected outcomes
- Can access their own health data and are engaged in decisions about their own care
- Have a health care team that works together across all levels of care to meet their needs
For a great example of how integrated care makes a difference to the life of a patient, check out to Sam’s story. While the example is set in the UK, the same benefits of integrated care would be expected for someone living in rural Alberta.