The Vital Role of Clinical Integration
In the ever-evolving healthcare landscape, the concept of clinical integration has become a pivotal factor in ensuring quality patient care and efficient healthcare delivery. Adfinitas Health, a leader in healthcare management, understands the significance of clinical integration and its transformative impact on the management of post-acute facilities and the hospitals they partner with. In this blog post, we will explore clinical integration, why it is essential, and how Adfinitas Health excels in seamlessly managing clinical care across hospitals and post-acute facilities.
What is clinical integration and why do we need it?
While there is no universally accepted definition of clinical integration, it is basically the framework that enables effective “coordination of patient care across conditions, providers, settings, and time in order to achieve care that is safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable and patient-focused.” Although many health systems have some form of clinical integration across their own enterprise, true clinical integration requires streamlined communication, collaboration, and coordination across the entire continuum of care.
The need for clinical integration is increasingly important for numerous reasons. One of the most significant is that more patients are living with chronic conditions. Today, 60% of U.S. adults are living with one chronic disease and 40% are living with two or more. Clinically integrated care management is essential for optimal outcomes for these patients, although achieving them can be challenging.
One of the biggest challenges is that patients have more options than ever regarding where to receive their healthcare. They may go to a walk-in clinic at their grocery store to get help for a seasonal allergy, to a pharmacy to receive immunizations, to an urgent care center for a sinus infection, to a primary care provider for an annual checkup, and an emergency department (ED) for an acute respiratory illness. Transitions of care are another important factor as patients move from one care facility to another. Without clinical integration across the continuum, the providers at each of these facilities may lack a complete picture of the patient’s medical history. This can result in duplicate tests, severe medication interactions, and misaligned care plans while increasing the chances of an adverse event and poor transitions of care.
Clinical integration is vital to optimal continuity of care, and research shows that patients who receive optimal continuity of care have “better healthcare outcomes, higher satisfaction rates, and the health care they receive is more cost-effective.”
Benefits of clinical integration
Clinical integration means providers across the continuum work together, no matter where the patient is seen, to ensure all care plans are aligned in a way that works best for that patient. Each provider can review previous tests, see all the patient’s medications and drug allergies, and gain important information on past procedures—all essential data that informs better decision-making, more effective care plans, and improved outcomes.
Another benefit of clinical integration is lower costs through more appropriate utilization of services. In other words, patients can be directed to the proper care setting for their particular needs. Today, many patients visit an ED for conditions that could be taken care of in an urgent care facility, which drives up costs for all. EDs are expensive to staff and maintain since they need to have highly skilled providers on call who are adept at handling the most critical patients and care scenarios. EDs also need access to a wide variety of expensive equipment, medications, and tools with which to assess and treat those patients. When patients present to the ED unnecessarily, it not only costs more, but it also can cause longer waits, overcrowding, and backlogs of patients waiting to be seen—delaying timely access to care and resulting in a poor patient experience.
Clinical integration also improves care transitions, such as from a hospital to a post-acute care setting. Research shows that nearly one in five patients experience an adverse event within just three weeks of discharge, 75% of which could have been prevented or alleviated. Clinical integration ensures that patient information, treatment plans, and medication histories are seamlessly transferred, reducing the risk of errors and complications.
A seamless approach to clinical integration
Adfinitas Health has distinguished itself in the healthcare management landscape by seamlessly integrating clinical care across hospitals and post-acute facilities. We leverage a proven three-pronged approach, which includes the following:
- Care coordination. By fostering collaboration between hospitals and post-acute facilities, we ensure patients experience a smooth transition from one care setting to another, minimizing disruptions in their care journey. We relay information from the facility’s EHR, including medication lists, and review notes to ensure the facility has the information they need to provide optimal care without having to request and wait for it.
- Standardized Protocols. Our high-performing physicians and advanced practice providers adhere to and support standardized clinical protocols that are consistently applied across the care continuum. This approach ensures patients receive evidence-based care regardless of where they are in the healthcare system. The COVID-19 pandemic was a good example of the importance of standardized protocols. Having all staff members on the same page was a critical element in keeping patients and staff safe.
- Quality assurance. Quality assurance is central to our approach, which is why we monitor and evaluate clinical outcomes rigorously, identifying areas for improvement and implementing strategies to enhance patient care continuously. For example, one of the nation’s largest post-acute care providers implemented Adfinitas Health medical directors into their facilities. Our providers served as advocates for those facilities at local hospitals. When new patients arrive, there is now a warm handoff, a peer-to-peer connection made, and a continued growing relationship with the referring hospital. In short, we ensured consistent quality and a positive patient experience for all patients.
A new way forward
Clinical integration plays a vital role in our ability to achieve the Triple Aim of “ improving the health of the population, enhancing the experience and outcomes of the patient, and reducing per capita cost of care for the benefit of communities.” At Adfinitas Health, our exemplary management of post-acute facilities and our record of exceptional collaboration with hospitals demonstrate the transformative power of clinical integration. By emphasizing care coordination, standardizing protocols, and prioritizing quality, we exemplify seamless integration of clinical care for the benefit of patients and the entire healthcare ecosystem.