Integrated Health Care

What is integrated health care?

Integrated health care, often referred to as interprofessional health care, is an approach characterized by a high degree of collaboration and communication among health professionals. What makes integrated health care unique is the sharing of information among team members related to patient care and the establishment of a comprehensive treatment plan to address the biological, psychological and social needs of the patient. The interprofessional health care team includes a diverse group of members (e.g., physicians, nurses, psychologists and other health professionals), depending on the needs of the patient.

Who benefits from integrated health care?

The benefits of an integrated health care approach extend to patients, caregivers, providers and the larger health care system. For instance, research indicates that integrated health care is effective in reducing depressive symptoms. Further evidence suggests that coordinated care, which integrates psychologists and other mental health providers within primary care, can enhance access to services, improve quality of care and lower overall health care expenditures.

In what settings can integrated health care be used?

Integrated health care delivery can occur in multiple settings to benefit individuals across the lifespan. These settings include: primary care, specialized medical settings (e.g., rehabilitation units, cardiology and surgical centers), long-term care settings, community-based health centers and social service sites. The integrated health care team often functions differently according to the setting. However, mutual respect and communication are critical at all sites.

What contributions do psychologists make to an integrated health care team?
  • Conduct cognitive, capacity, diagnostic and personality assessments that differentiate normal processes from pathology, side effects of medications, adjustment reactions or combinations of these problems.
  • Offer behavioral health assessment and treatment that provide individuals with the skills necessary to effectively manage their chronic conditions.
  • Diagnose and treat mental and behavioral health problems (e.g., depression, suicide risk, anxiety disorders, addiction and insomnia).
  • Offer consultation and recommendations to family members, significant others and other health care providers.
  • Contribute research expertise to the design, implementation and evaluation of team care and patient outcomes.
  • Develop interventions that are responsive to specific individual and community characteristics that may impact the treatment plan.

Developed by APA’s Committee on Aging (CONA) in collaboration with the 2007 Presidential Task Force on Integrated Health Care for an Aging Population (IHAP).