SUSTAIN’s partner AGE Platform Europe is an organization that promotes the interests of the 190 million citizens aged 50+ in the European Union. One of their experts representing EAHSA (European Association of Housing and Services for the Ageing), Dr. Ingrid Eyers who is a former nurse, care home manager and latterly an academic researcher with a focus on the care of older people, was invited to express her views and feedbacks about the SUSTAIN project. Based on her experience and knowledge as a gerontologist with wide ranging contacts within the sector of health and social care, her comments relate to the importance of integrated care from the end-user’s perspective, focusing on possible challenges and barriers within the implementation of SUSTAIN. According to Eyers, “SUSTAIN is an interesting project that can contribute to the development of integrated services for older people across Europe”.
Dr. Eyers’ contribution focuses on considering the whole integrated care systems structure, with an emphasis on the strong link between older people as patients, their experiences with health and social care professionals, their families, and at the same time, the effectiveness of integrated care teams and how to enhance it. Taking into consideration all these aspects in an ‘integrated way’ can ease the understanding of team works’ performance, highlight their benefits for patient, improve the delivery of care and indicate areas of conflict to be addressed.
Based on Dr. Eyers experience, one of the main challenges is to implement a sound communication system that enables the exchange of information between the patient, and health care professional but also the family caregiver, who is often forgotten. Indeed, a bad communication can lead for instance to unnecessary overlaps and errors in the delivering of care. Other issues related to information exchange and team work are data protection and confidentiality. In some scenarios, health and social care professionals won’t be able to access useful information due to data protection and confidentiality; moreover, the level of protection can change from country to country. Therefore, family caregivers or end-users usually act as information exchange centre. That is why, AGE’s expert advocates for a better and more efficient exchange of information that involves the professionals and the family to avoid errors in the delivery of care and improve the overall quality of the service.
‘There are also invisible, yet strong professional boundaries that need to be identified within the provision of integrated care’, as she said. It is not only a matter of team work but also team leadership which could ensure the provision of a well-structured system of information exchange. A defined and organised structure could avoid – or at least – reduce duplication and ultimately cost. It is true that large multi-disciplinary teams working on integrated care run as smoothly as possible; however a well-structured, with a stable operational framework, would most certainly ensure efficiency and effectiveness.
From her perspective, information exchange, data protection, team work and strong leadership are challenges that need to be addressed to build solid foundations for integrated care.