By Dr. Cara English, CGI CEO

In November 2017, I traveled to Brisbane, Australia to attend APIC: the first International Foundation of Integrated Care (IFIC) conference in the southern hemisphere, resulting from a partnership between the International Foundation of Integrated Care (IFIC), Children’s Health Queensland (CHQ), and Queensland Health’s Clinical Excellence Division.

This conference brought together researchers, clinicians and managers from the Asia Pacific region and around the world who are engaged in the design and delivery of integrated health and care services. They shared experiences and the latest evidence generated around the following key conference themes: New Models of Care Delivery; Child and Youth Health; Rural and Remote Health; Mental Health; and Engaging and Empowering Communities.

As I was the only American in attendance at the conference, I thought I’d share 5 takeaways from APIC 2017 with my state-side colleagues:

1. Patient engagement from start to finish drives innovation and population health improvements. Rather than designing care for patients the way we believe it will help the most, the evidence is clear that when community members have a voice at the table from design, through implementation, and into evaluation and quality improvement activities, significant health improvements are the result. This is a paradoxical approach to the way healthcare is designed and delivered primarily in the U.S., and a model I believe will be critical for us to embrace and utilize to achieve change in our country. It just makes sense! The Logan Together community effort in Australia is an example of the exciting outcomes of this work.

2. Regional and cultural perspectives and influences on health deserve to be honored. Each presenter began their session with the following acknowledgment in Brisbane: “I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land, and pay respect to Elders past, present, and future.” Respect for the wealth of indigenous and regional knowledge and guidance, wherever we happen to be working to improve the health of communities, was a value that was consistently present at the conference and in hospital and community visits in Australia and New Zealand, and this is leading to gains in public health. Take a look at Manaia Health PHO of New Zealand to see this work in action.

3. Integration efforts need to focus on transitions for patients and their families across sectorsChildren’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service facilitated discussions between providers, policy makers, and caregivers for children with chronic and complex healthcare needs. These discussions shed light on how healthcare can transform and better support families through stressful transitions, including becoming an adolescent or the transition to adult services, changing schools, surviving childhood illness, and coordination of care between primary, secondary, and tertiary services. We must work together with families to identify their pain points, which are often celebrated as “graduation” milestones for hospital providers.

4. Linkages between public and private service providers and communities are critical to make the maximize efficient use of funding and resources. Integration was defined differently by Children’s Health Queensland. There, the foundations of integration include child and family centered care, joint planning and governance, as well as shared values and culture. In our efforts in the U.S. to pursue the Triple/Quadruple Aim, we tend to overly focus on data information and sharing, clinical integration, and interprofessional workgroups, which are all important – but a broader perspective on integration is needed here, too, to accomplish the change we all wish to see in our health system.

5. Integrated care needs EVERYONE. Everyone from every sector and community is needed at the table to help our broken system find the path forward we all want. A diverse group of Australian specialists, general practice physicians, community health workers, government, and non-government organization workers, and health consumer representatives have partnered with the International Foundation of Integrated Care (IFIC) to drive integrated care efforts forward. Now, more than ever, we need similar collaboration in the U.S. to reclaim sovereignty of our health, and to overcome the political, financial, and systemic cultural barriers that plague our healthcare system.

Cummings Graduate Institute’s students, faculty, staff, and governing board are dedicated to achieving our vision of improving the way the world experiences healthcare, and we are honored and proud to be working alongside our partner, the International Foundation of Integrated Care (IFIC), and our colleagues and champions in the southern hemisphere as well as colleagues and communities in the U.S. as we pursue better health for all. Join us at our Integrated Care Conference on March 8-10 in Phoenix, AZ as we continue to learn together how we’ll make a difference.