Five Priorities for Advancing Integrated Care

Integrated care is an emergent set of practices that seeks to move away from care that is fragmented, episodic, and service-based, with care that is continuous, coordinated, and outcomes-focused. As the WHO describes it, integrated care is “seamless, smooth, and easy to navigate.” 

For people with diabetes, the practical implications of integration are not theoretical, but fundamental to how people access and navigate the health system. Diabetes is a lifelong disease, with daily challenges requiring lifestyle adjustments and consistent engagement with therapies and technologies, a burden that can have significant physical and psychological repercussions if not properly managed. Greater integration of care therefore promotes a long-term and more holistic focus towards people with diabetes that is well suited to the complexity of the disease. Integration is about improving outcomes and improving the quality of life for people with diabetes, two aspects that are interrelated.

Nonetheless, the immensity of the topic often leads to a sense of paralysis and an uncertainty about where to begin. To make advances in integrated care, prioritisation is needed.

The European Diabetes Forum, a group consisting of healthcare professions, researchers, industry representatives, and people with diabetes, have put forward five priorities to make progress in integration. These are pragmatic strategies to improve integration in all care settings, including implementing assessment models, developing patient centred pathways for diabetes care, revamping educational curricula, and putting incentives in place to encourage cooperation and teamwork within and between primary and secondary care settings.

Integration is a process more than an end state. In the diverse countries of Europe, there is no magic formula for integration. What is important is to apply a general set of principles, analytical perspectives, and tools that over time will lead to long-term shifts in the way people experience care, and the way care is provided.