Is integration the key to holistic healthcare? (panel discussion)


Healthcare integration is a hot topic in the medical field right now. Across the globe, our health systems are changing. Healthcare services are met with increasing demands and rising patient expectations. The need for a more integrated and holistic delivery of care is evident. But what does healthcare integration actually look like? And what impact is it having on the role of radiologists? We caught up with the Barco Visionary Panel to get to the crux of healthcare integration. 

Barco: What does healthcare integration actually entail? 

Danny Deroo (Barco): Healthcare integration requires the collaboration of healthcare providers across specialty departments and healthcare facilities to develop comprehensive treatment plans centered around the patient. Sharing information and knowledge is key. An easy process for information exchange, access to electronic medical records, and coordination of multidisciplinary team meetings are essential components of healthcare integration. 

Barco: In the current environment, why is there a need for healthcare integration? 

Albert Xthona (Barco): Hospitals are now being monitored and the results are reported publically. Hospital auditing is a driving factor behind the way facilities exchange information. On the other hand, healthcare facilities are increasingly faced with the challenge of balancing complex cases with stretched resources. Hospitals want to be more cost effective and provide value-based care. A system that fosters greater efficiency and productive teamwork, while delivering on patient satisfaction is optimal. 

Erik R. Ranschaert (radiologist at Jeroen Bosch, the Netherlands): Patients are becoming more aware of and assertive in their healthcare needs. They want to feel like they are being taken care of by a team. There is a financial element to consider as well. In the US for instance, we have seen a shift from a volume to value based service for radiologists. This value of care really depends on radiologists’ interaction with patients, providing incentive for radiologists to engage more directly with patients. 

Barco: Who benefits from healthcare integration? 

Erik: Patients benefit from the combined knowledge of a multidisciplinary team and they may find empowerment in the increased transparency healthcare integration provides. As healthcare providers, the more we can discuss the information we have together, the better we can develop effective treatment plans. In an ideal scenario, patients are discussed in cross-department meetings, decisions are made in teams and information is exchanged digitally. This benefits clinicians as well, especially in complex cases when the involvement of multiple experts can be drawn upon. 

Electronic medical records may grant patients greater access to their medical information, and medical records could be exchanged across departments and hospitals more effortlessly. Easy access to electronic medical records would limit the need for examinations to be re-done, reducing overall costs for healthcare facilities. 

Barco: What are the challenges of achieving healthcare integration? 

Danny: A number of questions need to be resolved before healthcare integration becomes the norm in healthcare practice. In the case of storing and sharing electronic medical records between facilities, steps for securing patient privacy and obtaining patient consent must be established. In order for electronic medical records to become customary at a national and global level, decisions will need to be reached on where the information is stored. This data will need to be centralized and a program for consolidating the information will be required. Setting up the infrastructure for the electronic storage and exchange of medical information will be costly, and this is something that needs to be considered. 

Barco: What impact is healthcare integration having on the role of radiologists? 

Erik: Radiologists are moving out of an isolated position from behind their workstations and getting more involved with clinicians and patients. We are continuing to play a more active role in patient diagnosis, follow-up and monitoring, and we now have a greater role in treatment decisions. Healthcare integration is also changing the way we report. There’s been a shift towards more quantitative measurements and standardized reporting, to support patient follow up and shared reporting. 

Albert: Healthcare as we know it is changing. Therapies are becoming more interdisciplinary and the role of radiologists is changing in effect. Healthcare integration has the potential to support not only radiologists, but all healthcare providers to gain on efficiency, and provide a greater quality of care for all patients.