By Huang Xiao Ting and Amanda Teng

Phase V Medicine students

During our Phase IV electives, we were very privileged to attend the 17th International Conference on Integrated Care in Dublin, Ireland, under the guidance of Associate Professor Reshma Merchant, Department of Geriatrics in NUH. Delegates came from all over the world and worked in various parts of the healthcare system, e.g. nurses, allied health professionals, healthcare management professionals. We were thoroughly thrilled to attend the event and glean new insights.

 

One of the presentations that stood out and remained in our minds for a long time was a success story of a community programme which was aimed at engaging the elderly in a neighbourhood. The neighbourhood had a substantial number of elderly and the programme did not take off initially as the participation and retention rates of elderly participants was low. They wanted to engage the seniors and encourage active ageing, i.e. to engage them mentally, socially and physically, to help them age better within the community.

 

With Singapore’s own population of seniors increasing, we felt that the perception of ageing is often viewed in a pessimistic light, with many elderly resigned to their fate and accepting frailty and multiple illnesses as a natural progression in life. However, we were inspired and believe that active ageing is a good way to reduce the healthcare issues that develop from frailty, social isolation, loss of function and depression. This involves

linking up with various partners in the community and healthcare on common platforms, with seamless workflows to enable a successful revolution. On top of that, as evidenced by the presentation, a key component would also be empowering the elderly to take charge of their health, to allow them to start planning and be more involved in their own management.

 

Integrated Care has multiple definitions, and it is defined differently across the healthcare spectrum. Essentially, it works towards the coordination of care across the different service providers within an organisation and across organisations, to facilitate holistic and comprehensive forms of care. It includes utilising technology to improve patients’ access to healthcare or improving internal workflows in an organisation. An idea that was brought up in the conference was also the concept of recognising that patients are also important partners and determinants in how healthcare is delivered. This understanding has changed the way in which healthcare is provided. From the top-down approach of the past, where the doctor prescribed to a placid, receiving patient, to the current model where it is a therapeutic partnership between the healthcare provider and the patient, there is a definite movement towards integrated care. It is one that addresses different aspects (health, social, environmental).

 

The conference opened our eyes to this huge field and we are now better able to appreciate the efforts made towards improving care.