IntegratedHealth_IssueBrief_FINAL 1We released a new issue brief today, Integrated Health Care Benefits Kentucky’s Children, which examines the advantages of integrated health care as a way to improve the health of Kentucky’s kids.

In Kentucky, too many children struggle with poor health or have special health care needs. Kentucky’s health care system has undergone many changes in recent years. As these changes continue to be implemented, it is important for Kentucky to make sure all health needs of children are being met through improved access to high-quality care that encompasses physical, behavioral, and oral health. Efforts to improve the health of Kentucky’s children must address all the components of health and factors related to health such as income, geography, personal choices, and genetics.

Improving the health of Kentucky’s children will require efforts where stakeholders and professionals from multiple sectors work together to address all aspects of a child’s health, including physical, behavioral, and oral health. We look forward to seeing how the Kentucky Health Now Initiative will tackle children’s health challenges, like obesity and asthma.

In the brief, we discuss the importance of integrated care, which involves prioritizing the patient and coordinating health care across professionals and facilities. Goals of integrated care include the following:

  • Improving access to and continuity of care;
  • Enhancing the quality of care and quality of life for patients;
  • Boosting consumer satisfaction;
  • Increasing efficiency and cost effectiveness.

Two aspects of integrated care are particularly important for children: comprehensive care and co-location of services. Comprehensive care means that a full range of services are offered to the child including preventive care, treatment, and connecting families to social support services if needed. Co-located services (i.e., primary care, oral health care, behavioral health, and social services offered at one site) are more convenient for families, increasing the likelihood that children will receive the care they need.

An integrated approach can increase patients’ access to care, help them play a more active role in the health care they receive, and help them stay committed to their treatment plan. It can also reduce the cost of health care by improving the effectiveness of the care administered, improve efficiency of health care providers, and increase preventive care.

Kentucky has made a lot of strides in kids’ health recently. We’ve done so much to provide kids with health insurance coverage. Now we need to move beyond coverage and figure out how that translates into high quality, accessible care.