Professional integration is a process of making new ways of doing work in a hospital. It is a process of hospital management in which new partnerships between healthcare professionals who are specialized in various aspects occur. Each professional would be having individual skills, knowledge, and experience and hence would be able to provide better quality of care. Professional integration would better help to utilize medical and information systems. The introduction of professional integration or integrated care pathway (ICP) would involve a lot of changes.
Managing an integrated care approach would involve consideration of factors put forth by the government, department of health, management and other stakeholders. It may be difficult for a physician to perform all the tasks, as there it is not only costly, but also would create a greater shortage of human resources. Hence, it would be ideal for the physician to assign certain responsibilities to other trained professionals in the healthcare system including nurses, physiotherapists, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, technicians, specialists, etc.
Recently, there has been growth of managed care, and in this system there has been a greater need for professional integration, considering the aim of providing cost-effective treatment to the patient in the form of health packages. Using the model of professional integration, physicians would not only play the role of clinician, but would also be performing administrative tasks (Crump, 2002, Goes, 1995 & Briller, 1997). A study was conducted by the Wagner School of Public Service (1997) on the implementation of an integrated health organization policy (involving professional integration) in the HealthPartners of Southern Arizona hospital.
The type of approach utilized was an expanded professional model (EPM). The findings of this model were studied so that integration can be utilized on a more extensive scale. The various aspects that were integrated included a hospital, a healthcare plan and two physicians. It was found that the integration process transformed the healthcare system and brought about positive changes in management and clinical work. Professional integration involves provision of healthcare by a team.
Responsibilities are shared by different professionals who work in the team. Each of these professionals would be have their own sub-cultures, and in total, all these sub-cultures would be aligned. In the study, the benefits were clearly demonstrated, and also there were a few limitations existing which were solved using certain recommendations. Professional integration would produce certain innovative ideas which could be utilized in providing outpatient, inpatient and community healthcare services.
Professional integration involves the physician taken the responsibility of leader, helping to provide and manage the treatment of the patient. Once the physician leads the patient care of team-based healthcare professionals, the quality of care would improve and the responsibilities can be shared in a more appropriate manner. The organization having greater amount of professional integration would gain a competitive edge over other organizations. The organization should look into the various ways in which various professionals can be integrated, and accordingly implement them.
Once there is greater amount of professional integration, automatically clinical integration would occur, which can provide even greater number of advantages. Other organizations need to consider the expanded professional model (EPM) approach study conducted by the Wagner School of Public Service, and accordingly implement them after reflecting individual characteristics. One of the most important requirements for professional integration is a workstation for the users (healthcare professional) so that efficient and prompt transfer of patient health information occurs.
The user should be able to access information of the patients assigned to them. The system should have user-friendly software programs which would enable entry, modification, processing, storage and transfer of patient health information. Each user should be able to view the tasks assigned to them. Such an electronic system would provide prompts, reminders and alerts for the user thus ensuring that better clinical decision-making can be enabled, and improvements in the quality of care are seen (Degoulet, 1995 & Goes, 1995).
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