The European Commission presented a new report from its expert group on Health Systems Performance Assessment (HSPA) at the last meeting of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP AHA) Action Group on Integrated Care. Members of the Action Group have contributed to the report: ‘Tools and methodologies to assess integrated care in Europe’.

Building blocks of successful integration

The chapter of the report to which the Action Group contributed, lists 11 key building blocks of successful integration of care. These are:

  1. Political support and commitment
  2. Governance
  3. Stakeholder engagement
  4. Organisational change
  5. Leadership
  6. Collaboration and trust
  7. Workforce education and training
  8. Patient focus / empowerment
  9. Financing and incentives
  10. ICT infrastructure and solutions
  11. Monitoring / evaluation system
Regional examples of successful integration

The real strength of this report is the detailed description of success factors from integrated care experiences in a number of European regions. They include European Social Network (ESN) members from the Basque Country (ES), Catalonia (ES), Southern Denmark (DK), Lombardy Region (IT), Province of Trento (IT), Veneto Region (IT) and Lazio Region (IT). For each of the 11 building blocks listed above, the report provides examples from these regions of the role they played in integrating services. Even though most of the examples are focused on the integration of different parts of the healthcare system or health and IT, there are also a few that address the integration of health and social care.

Goals of integration

Any assessment relies on clear goals and objectives against which progress can be measured. When assessing progress on integrating care services, it is important to be clear about whether the main goal is to increase the effectiveness of the system, reduce costs, improve patient safety or something else. As ESN’s report on integrated social services emphasises, it is also essential to agree on expectations and establish shared goals with partner organisations that everyone involved commits to.

As the HSPA’s report stresses, there cannot be one right approach for service integration as the country-specific context and the nature of the services that are being integrated require adaptions. However, it suggests that “it would be valuable to identify a set of comparable indicators that may be considered core and that would allow for comparative assessment over time and between regions and countries.” This report is a helpful step towards that.