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How Integrated Health Centers Provide Community Health Solutions

Integrated health centers use an organized collaboration of general and mental health care professionals. The system joins experts in mental health, substance abuse and behavioral health care to develop an effective treatment plan for people in need.

Taking a Holistic Approach to Health Care

With integrated health care, patients are able to access a wide variety of medical and mental health services in a way that's more convenient and cost effective. This type of health care also offers more support for their emotional and physical wellbeing by supporting the patient with a multi-faceted health care approach. Joining patient and health care professionals together in a collaborative effort will not only help treat a specific ailment, but ensure the entire body is healthy by using a holistic health care strategy.

Integrated Health Care Benefiting the Community

Integrated health care is a relatively new strategy that has gathered plenty of praise for its efficiency and cost effectiveness. Not only are patients receiving better care, the communities that employ such strategies are seeing positive results as well. Numerous case studies prove the positive affect these integrated health care programs can have. For example, a Massachusetts program helps mothers and their babies during the first year of the child's life by providing tools, training, psychiatric consultation, and access to community-based resources. In low-income areas, this strategy has helped mothers access the medical care required for a healthy and growing child.

Intermountain Healthcare from Salt Lake City, Utah, started a project that integrates mental health care into primary care practices. Because of this program, patients with depression and/or stress were 54% less likely to visit their hospital's emergency department; patients who visited these integrated clinics also had a 27% lower rate of cost growth. An integrative approach helped focus more on the patients - whether they're suffering from depression or chronic back pain, and got to the core reason behind their illnesses and offered beneficial solutions.

In a local population plagued by chronic unemployment, Genesys Health System from Flint, Michigan, and its partners use a patient-centered integrated health care program along with a health navigator to help patient's access much needed resources. The program, called Healthworks, helped the community lower health care costs by 25%. The team has worked to promote integrated strategies across the United States.

Healthworks isn't the only organization to promote "holistic health" practices into general medicine. Health care professionals from around the world are beginning to see the benefits of these strategies, and have taken the following steps to provide better health solutions for the community:

Training Physicians as Yoga Instructors

The Life in Yoga program provides continuing education credits to physicians who take part in the four-day training session. This program, which is affiliated with the Howard University College of Medicine, has trained 145 physicians since it started in 2010. A Maryland-based physician says the knowledge gained in the Life in Yoga program has helped with her patients suffering from sleep apnea and arthritis.

Mindfulness Helping with Chronic Pain

Patients who are experiencing chronic back or hip pain may find help with an approach called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). This method has seen positive results from patients from across the country. For example, by paying daily attention to the body to determine the greatest areas of pain and discomfort, patients can learn that instead of pain being constant, it actually "peaks, valleys and completely subsides." By using various breathing exercises, patients can learn to refocus their attention away from areas of pain. While MBSR doesn't completely eliminate pain, it can help alleviate the frustration and anxiety for patients who have suffered with chronic pain for years.

Functional Medicine Helping with Diet and Nutrition

By focusing on diet, physical activity, and the consumption of specific nutrients, the New York-based Continuum Center for Health and Healing helps to improve the health of its patients. Similar to integrated health care, Functional Medicine addresses the primary causes of disease, encouraging both patient and doctor to collaborate in a holistic partnership. This allows the needs of the whole person to be addressed, not just an isolated set of symptoms.

Integrated Health Care Approach Can Save Money

From a health care cost perspective, this holistic approach toward patient care can benefit communities financially as well. Research has shown that community-based integrated addiction treatment can result in a 35% reduction in inpatient costs, a 39% reduction in emergency room costs, and a whopping 26% reduction in total medical costs for the community.

It's also estimated that somewhere between $26 and $48 billion could be saved with the effective integration of medical and mental health services for targeted communities in need. In fact, a recent integrated health care study suggests that approximately $656 million can be saved by coordinating treatment of patients with conditions like diabetes, hypertension, asthma, or arthritis in addition to a behavioral health condition.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in health care and improving this integrated strategy for better patient care, consider a Master of Science in Health Care Administration degree from Utica College. Located in the heart of central New York, Utica College is a comprehensive, independent, private institution founded in 1946 by Syracuse University. In the competitive field of health care, individuals need the best education and training in order to climb up the professional ladder. Utica College's knowledgeable instructors prepare students for the professional environment and provide the necessary tools to leave a positive impact on patient care.