Clinical Integration, a Partnership with Care Providers

Clinical integration continues to gain momentum both nationally and in Michigan. Why? Because it facilitates coordination of patient care across conditions, providers, and settings to achieve care that is safe, timely, effective, efficient, and patient-centered.

How does clinical integration make a difference? In an effective clinically integrated network, primary care physicians, specialists, hospitals, and other providers share collaborative clinical goals. Providers communicate and cooperate with each other so patients receive coordinated care that improves quality and timeliness of care and reduces duplication of services.

Care teams create a “home base” for patients, providing access to primary care physicians and others on their team. This model places patients in the position to actively participate in their own care. Patients access their team for preventive and chronic care services; the team then coordinates with specialists and others to meet patients’ needs. Those needing higher levels of communication and coordination have access to care managers (often RNs) who help with the management of multiple or complicated conditions. Care managers also actively coordinate care for patients who have been hospitalized, making sure that patients receive follow-up appointments, medications, and other services.

How do we know that clinical integration makes a difference? Metrics. Together Health Network measures performance in areas of cost, access, and use of services along with an ongoing commitment to improving both quality and patient experience. Improvement is driven by shared clinical goals of Together Health Network providers across the systems of care, creating an expectation for excellence.

As Michigan’s first clinically integrated network, Together Health Network exemplifies collaboration with a foundation comprised of what some might view as industry competitors. Michigan’s two largest Catholic health systems, Ascension and Trinity Health, teaming with Michigan Medicine, chose to work “together” to improve population health. Their shared goals are increasingly aligned. And, by collaborating with physician practices and physician organizations, these independent institutions have created a team that is reshaping how health and care are delivered in Michigan.

Success in a health ecosystem that is shifting rapidly relies on pooling knowledge and sharing resources. Clinically integrated networks, like Together Health Network, offer providers and patients a unique advantage: patient-focused, high-quality care that is timely, effective, and efficient, enabled by care coordination and performance improvement.

Stacey Duncan-Jackson, RN, MPA
Director Population Health, Together Health Network

What’s what with Telemedicine, Telehealth, Telecare and Virtual Care?

Let’s face it; the health care industry is awash with acronyms and terms that can often muddy the waters for patients, physicians and payers when it comes to understanding health and care.

The intersection of medicine and technology certainly contributes to this confusion as well. Rapidly emerging virtual care delivery services are certainly no strangers to this phenomenon. Names like telehealth, telecare and telemedicine are often being used interchangeably. Fortunately, there really are distinctions between these terms.

VIRTUAL HEALTH CARE – this is the overarching label for a category of methods by which physicians and other care providers can interact with patients without actually seeing them in-office. Thanks to the ubiquitous connected audio and visual technology at everyone’s fingertips, patients now have easier access to services, at reduced costs with improved care quality – the triple aim service objective for most health systems and providers.

TELEMEDICINE – is considered the clinical application of technology or literally meaning healing from a distance. Telemedicine has been more commonly used in the past with telehealth now becoming the more universal term for the current broad array of applications in the field.

TELEHEALTH – according to the Department of Health & Human Services Department, is different from telemedicine because it encompasses a broader, consumer-facing approach – a collection of means or methods (not a specific clinical service) to enhance care delivery and education. While telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services, telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical services, such as provider training, administrative meetings, and continuing medical education, in addition to clinical services.

TELECARE – is the term that relates to technology that enables patients to maintain their independence and safety while remaining in their own homes. This technology includes mobile monitoring devices, medical alert systems, and telecommunications technology like computers and telephones. Continuous remote monitoring of patients enables telecare to track lifestyle changes over time as well as receiving alerts relating to real-time emergencies.

Virtual care, as a patient service model, is moving health services forward at the pace of consumer technology, which is much faster than anyone anticipated health care ever evolving. It is emerging as the critical component to the health care crisis solution delivering the promise to significantly impact some of the industry’s most challenging problems. No matter what label you attach to it, virtual care is changing the current paradigm of care, allowing for improved access and improved health outcomes in cost effective ways.