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Integrated care: The bridge between quality and efficiency

Posted May 06 2013 5:06pm

by Julie Manas

Care integration has become one of the fastest growing buzzwords in healthcare lately, which perhaps has as much to do with people like me who end up using those two words in nearly every conversation (honestly, we can't help ourselves) than any other reason.

What does "care integration" really mean? Is it a revolutionary new concept that has become the right thing to do because of the Affordable Care Act? Or is it something we've been practicing for many years and just haven't talked about it?

I would venture to say it's more the latter than the former, but we're putting added energy and effort towards "it" than we ever have.

As the healthcare landscape continues to change, issues such as patient-centered care, quality, safety and efficiency never have been more important. However, we often find ourselves addressing these areas independent of one another rather than taking a collective, global approach to re-inventing the way we care for our patients and how we coordinate that care.

At Sacred Heart and St. Joseph's Hospitals, we have a 125-year history of providing high-quality, efficient care to our communities with a clear focus on our Franciscan mission. Ways that we have begun creating the bridge between quality and efficiency for improved care integration include:

  • Fostering formal channels of communication with area nursing homes and home health agencies;
  • Working with care coordinators and patient navigators to provide seamless transitions of care for patients as they move through the care continuum;
  • Developing closer relationships with area hospitals;
  • Creating an in-house call center to ease patient transfers from other facilities;
  • EMR donation agreements with several physician groups;
  • Implementation of an electronic medical record system;
  • Aligning physicians with overall strategic direction through leadership on clinical councils and through medical directorships;
  • Focusing on achievement of top decile performance in quality and safety through:
  • Supporting Lean projects throughout the organization;
  • Forming Centers of Excellence to centralize clinical and administrative resources, align physicians in quality improvement efforts, identify greater efficiencies, market differentiation, and improve overall patient satisfaction.

It is imperative that we continue to find ways to improve the care we provide. Integrating that care through the continuum with the help and support of our physician and community partners is key in reaching top decile performance.

Our patients deserve no less.

Julie Manas is president and CEO of the Western Wisconsin division of Hospital Sisters Health System in Eau Claire.

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