Improving Patient Experiences Through Integrated Care

July 6, 2022

Many health systems are focusing on improved patient experiences through the role of integrated care. Patient experiences have become increasingly important in evaluating the quality of healthcare. Positive experiences, encompassing factors like communication, coordination of care, and ease of accessing services, correlate strongly with better patient health outcomes. This makes improving patient experiences a key priority for health systems looking to deliver higher-value care.

Integrated care models, which emphasize increased coordination and continuity across providers and care settings, play a major role in driving better patient experiences. As health systems transition towards value-based care, an integrated approach allows them to provide more seamless, personalized, and effective treatment plans tailored to each person’s needs. From the patient's perspective, this translates into more positive healthcare encounters.

The Importance of Improved Patient Experiences Through Integrated Care

Positive patient experiences are important markers of healthcare quality in their own right. Patients who have confidence in their healthcare providers, understand their conditions and care plans, and can easily navigate the system end up more engaged and satisfied with their treatment. Integrated care involves providers working together across specialties. Patients can understand their care from various healthcare providers since they're working together. Behavioral health providers, primary health care providers, and more provide comprehensive care services.

Improving experiences is more than just boosting patient happiness. Evidence shows it also leads to enhanced clinical outcomes, lower utilization of high-cost services, and higher revenue for health systems.

In one major study, hospitals scoring in the top 25% on patient experience metrics had lower readmission and mortality rates compared to average performers. Patient experience is now factored into many value-based purchasing programs, reimbursement models, and hospital rating systems. This creates both a clinical and a financial incentive to provide more integrated, personalized care.

Transitioning to integrated healthcare models is a key strategy for health systems looking to move the needle on patient experiences. This approach emphasizes extensive care coordination, communication, and information sharing across providers, departments, and care settings. The goal is to create a streamlined system where patients feel informed, listened to, and supported at every step.

While cultural and operational change is required, the payoff can be immense. Organizations at the forefront of integration are seeing patient experience scores rise to new heights, even against national competitors. This boost in experiences translates into better health outcomes and lower costs over time.

The Core Aspects of Integrated Care

There is no single model for integrated care, which can take many different forms based on a health system’s needs and priorities. However, most integrated care initiatives focus on improving coordination, continuity, and communication at multiple levels, including:

  • Care Teams: Creating interdisciplinary teams collaborating closely across medical services and departments. This ensures coordinated, unified care plans.
  • Health Data Systems: Implementing connected health IT systems and shared records so providers can seamlessly exchange patient information. This provides holistic views of each person’s health so providers can provide comprehensive and collaborative care.
  • Care Management: Using care managers and navigators to guide patients through the system and oversee whole-person care. This personalizes support and leads to both patient and provider satisfaction.
  • Provider Relationships: Building partnerships across primary care doctors, specialists, hospitals, post-acute facilities, and community services. This allows smooth care transitions.
  • Access and Convenience: Offering multi-channel access points, virtual care options, and same-day appointments to make obtaining timely care easier. This reduces barriers to primary health care and other specialties.

How an Integrated Approach Improves Healthcare Outcomes

While implementing integrated models requires effort, the benefits make it worthwhile. There are both clinical and financial incentives driving adoption.

On the clinical side, a wealth of research shows integrated care improves health outcomes across a range of measures. For instance, studies found patients receiving coordinated care had:

These gains stem from the increased continuity and reduced fragmentation patients experience. With smooth hand-offs between settings, needs are less likely to fall through the cracks. More holistic care plans also promote better self-management.

Financially, positive returns are fueled by decreased utilization of avoidable high-cost services like ER visits and hospital readmissions. Keeping patients healthier at home avoids expensive downstream care. Even a small reduction in admissions and bounce-backs can yield huge savings for health systems thanks to the expensive nature of hospital stays.

This value equation is driving the widespread adoption of integrated models, especially under value-based payment programs. The approach aligns incentives around whole-person care. Health systems also have more flexibility to invest savings from reducing acute services into supplemental programs like improved patient access and virtual care.

How Improved Staffing Strategies Benefit Integrated Care

Realizing the vision of integrated care rests on having enough qualified staff to coordinate extensive services and deliver personalized care. Health systems need robust workforce strategies to ensure they're providing great care and a positive patient experience.

More centralized, data-driven approaches to workforce planning and staffing management are essential to adequate staffing. Key focus areas should include:

  • Advanced Workforce Analytics: Using AI-powered analytics to model demand, supply, and staffing requirements system-wide allows more precise filling.
  • Total Talent Management: Working with a single, deeply integrated partner to oversee temporary clinical labor, permanent hiring, and internal resource pool management simplifies programming.
  • Enterprise-Wide Communications: Instantly distributing open positions across the entire health system and sharing candidates between departments reduces duplication.
  • Proactive Demand Planning: Building schedules proactively based on historical visit patterns better aligns staff with fluctuating patient volumes
  • Automated Shift Matching: Instantly identifying and placing the best-fit internal resources or contingent clinicians into open shifts prevents vacancies.
  • Real-Time Productivity Monitoring: Tracking department-level productivity metrics allows dynamic shift adjustments to smooth bottlenecks.

Together, these create a closed-loop system where patient demand informs staffing levels and contributes to patient experiences. This integration between access, staffing, and delivery prevents weak links that degrade care continuity.

What Is the Significance of Flex Staffing

While building a large internal staff enables smooth, integrated care, over-reliance on permanent clinicians also has downsides. Inflexible fixed labor costs reduce financial agility. Fluctuating patient volumes and seasonal census spikes can overwhelm even the most robust core team.

This makes supplementing the permanent workforce with flexible contingent staffing critical. Travel nurses, allied health professionals, and other supplemental clinical labor can seamlessly fill gaps without bearing the risk profile of full-time hires. That's where flex staffing comes into play.

Flexible staffing delivers patient experience benefits, including:

  • Handling Seasonal Volume Spikes: Temporarily expanding clinical capacity prevents appointment delays and crowded facilities during peak seasons like flu outbreaks. This maintains access.
  • Filling Specialty Coverage Gaps: Bringing in niche skill sets like pediatrics, psychiatric nursing, or trauma surgery on a temporary basis widens the care spectrum without overstaffing.
  • Enabling Care Team Continuity: Extending high-performing contingent practitioners already familiar with protocols boosts continuity.
  • Supporting Rapid Response Needs: Quickly activating crisis response teams during emergencies like COVID-19 increases capacity.
  • Reducing Clinician Burnout: Giving overloaded permanent teams flexible support provides work-life balance. This prevents turnover that disrupts longitudinal care.

With the average cost of replacing a nurse being generally high, the return on investment from flex staffing is significant. Healthcare staffing partners are vital resources for health systems pursuing an integrated care model.

How Obtaining a Healthy Staffing Mix Improves the Patient Experience

Truly optimizing patient experiences through integrated care requires moving beyond reactive shortages to strategically engineering a blended clinical workforce. This entails balancing permanent hires, internal float pools, and external staff. Flexible staffing is the solution to creating a healthy staffing mix for integrated care.

Too much fixed staff leads to inflated labor costs and an inability to adapt to call-outs, turn-over, etc. An equilibrium between these groups builds flexibility while enabling the development of care team relationships over time.

Moreover, advanced health systems take a whole-facility view spanning clinical and non-clinical departments like environmental services, dietary, and transport staff. Enterprise-wide coordination ensuring adequate support roles is critical, as shortages degrade experiences regardless of source. Flexible staffing from trusted staffing agencies can help all healthcare providers implement a successful integrated care model and positive patient experiences.

Utilize Customized Staffing Solutions from Health Carousel to Improve Patient Experiences

As health systems move towards value-based integrated care, competitive differentiation will increasingly center on patient experiences. This makes getting workforce strategy and staffing management to work together is critical.

Health Carousel provides customized total talent management solutions, enabling healthcare providers to elevate experiences through capacity balancing.

Our clinically led experts become trusted extensions of your team. Leveraging proprietary workforce analytics, we help architect data-backed staffing plans tailored to your organization’s exact needs and priorities. This empowers you to:

  • Balance Staffing Mix: Our personalized approach helps you securely blend permanent, internal, and temporary labor to build flexibility.
  • Recruit Specialized Skill Sets: We expand your care spectrum by recruiting hard-to-find niche skill sets to join your ecosystem.
  • Scale Seasonal Capacity: We help your system seamlessly scale up and down to handle fluctuating patient demand without compromising on quality.
  • Focus on Patient Experiences: With end-to-end staffing handled, you can dedicate more resources towards elevating experiences.
  • Reduce Labor Costs: We enable healthcare systems to reduce costly over-reliance on fixed permanent hiring and build in variability to handle fluctuating patient volumes at lower costs.

    Let our team of workforce experts provide customized staffing solutions that empower your system to execute its vision for integrated, personalized care. Contact us today to learn more about our total talent management services and how we can provide flexible staffing to improve your patient experience through integrated care.


    What is the benefit of integrated care?

    Integrated care, also referred to as coordinated care or comprehensive care, offers a significant benefit by improving patient outcomes through a streamlined and collaborative approach to healthcare delivery.

    What is an integrated approach to patient care?

    An integrated approach to patient care involves a coordinated and collaborative process where various healthcare professionals work together to address all aspects of a patient's health. This method combines different specialties and services to provide comprehensive care that meets the physical, mental, emotional, and social needs of the individual. The goal is to ensure seamless communication and continuity of care across different settings and stages of treatment.

    How can integrated care improve patient outcomes?

    Integrated care improves patient outcomes by ensuring a coordinated and seamless healthcare experience where multiple providers work together to address the holistic needs of patients. This approach leads to better communication among caregivers, which can result in more accurate diagnoses, tailored treatment plans, and proactive management of chronic conditions.

    About Health Carousel

    Health Carousel is committed to partnering with world-class healthcare facilities across the country, providing rewarding assignments for Registered Nurses and Allied Health Professionals, and attracting the best internal talent at all career levels.