Integrated care commonly involves provision of comprehensive community-based care for people with chronic conditions. It is anticipated that implementation of integrated care, with a proactive approach to management of chronic conditions, will reduce reliance on hospital and emergency department (ED) services. The aim of this rapid review was to summarize the best available evidence on the impact of integrated care for patients with chronic conditions on hospital and ED utilization and investigate trends in outcomes over time.
Given the large body of literature available on this topic, this rapid review considered existing systematic reviews and meta-analyses that included adults with chronic conditions. Any model of integrated care that involved management of patients across the continuum of care, with the aim to provide more care in community settings, was considered for inclusion. A search of PubMed, CINAHL, Google Advanced, and websites of international healthcare provider organizations was conducted to locate relevant published and gray literature.
A total of 13 systematic reviews were included. Overall, evidence suggests that integrated care may reduce the risk of hospitalization, with reviews including patients with diverse chronic conditions showing a 19% reduction. Integrated care appears effective in reducing readmissions for patients with heart failure, with an absolute risk reduction of 8% for first and 19% for subsequent rehospitalization. For ED presentations, evidence indicates that integrated care has no effect overall but may reduce ED visits for patients aged 65 years or more. For patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, integrated care was associated with reductions in length of stay ranging from 2.5 to 4 days. Studies with shorter follow-up, from 3 to 12 months, in general appeared to show a greater impact of integrated care than studies with longer follow-up of 18 months or more.
The evidence identified suggests integrated care generally reduces utilization of hospital services. In some instances, there were no differences observed between integrated care and usual care, but no included reviews reported increased utilization of these services. The impact of integrated care may be greater in the short-term, given the ultimate deterioration associated with advanced chronic disease which may negate any long-term benefits.