Clinical integration is a culture and strategy that fosters collaboration between physicians and hospitals that furnishes higher quality, more efficient care than could be achieved by providers working independently.
There are many approaches and strategies to achieve successful clinical integration—from initiatives aimed at achieving greater coordination around a single clinical condition or procedure to fully-integrated hospital systems consisting entirely of physicians employed by the hospital. Generally speaking, clinically integrated networks involve a program, organized by the participating physicians, to evaluate and modify practice patterns among members in order to promote high quality care and control costs.
Any physician with staff privileges at one of the Memorial hospitals may apply for membership with Memorial Health Network (MHN), the clinically integrated network of Memorial Healthcare System. Most clinically integrated networks include members of many different types of physician groups. MHN’s members include independent primary care and specialty physicians, physician group practices, and employed physicians.
Because all the members of a clinically integrated network have access to the same infrastructure and patient information, clinical integration can improve care in several ways. Consider that, in a given year, most patients not only visit a primary care doctor, but also various specialists as well as members of independent physician groups. Clinical integration enables all these different doctors to have access to the same health information for each patient. This will help to reduce or eliminate redundant administration of diagnostic procedures, adverse prescription drug interactions, and conflicting care plans, all of which can improve the quality of care while reducing inefficient, incomplete, or conflicting modes of treatment.
Further, clinically integrated networks equip providers with “performance benchmarks.” These are proven medical protocol that are easy to implement, easy to track, and easy to capture electronically. One example might be increasing patient rates for recommended annual procedures, such as colo-rectal exams or breast cancer screenings. Evidence has shown that widespread use of these types of measures will improve patient outcomes. Clinical integration provides a mechanism to assure that physicians in the Network are performing these procedures.