What Care Integration Means to Me

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Charles Pascale, a 67-year-old resident of East Brunswick, N.J., was diagnosed with diabetes in the early 1990s. In 2005, he underwent bypass surgery and was re-hospitalized six times in 2010 and two times in 2011 and 2012. After many tests and procedures, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis, End Stage Renal Disease, mild stroke, various gastrointestinal issues and an irregular heartbeat. Mr. Pascale endured several amputations and continues to receive dialysis. Through it all, he has remained positive because of the collaboration he has witnessed among his health care providers, as well as his own integration into the care team. This is his story.

As a patient actively involved in my own care, I see care integration as continuous, team-based care. It eases the burden on patients because it incorporates both the patient and the health professional into the health care equation, spreading responsibility equally. I am a software project manager, and I believe the integration of players yields better results, whether you’re building software or building a health care team. The patient-provider team is better than the sum of its parts.

I understand that for this collaboration to work, I must remain involved in all aspects of my care, from making sure all of my physicians receive copies of my latest test results, to reviewing my medications with my primary care physician.

My pulmonologist expanded his practice and he is now also my primary care physician. I send him a copy of any test or report that I receive. If he is not in the loop by default, I pull him into the loop. The same goes for all of my physicians. Several of my doctors know each other well, either directly or through my coordination.

I believe it’s the patient’s job to become an active participant in his or her integrated care team and the keeper of his or her own information. I understand the health care system can be complicated and that health care professionals can be pressed for time, so it’s my job to be informed and keep everyone on my care team in the loop. My job is just as important as my physician’s or anyone else in the health care equation. If more people believed this, the world would have more healthy people.

I am also aware that mistakes can happen in the health care system, but I recognize the effort that has been made to improve care quality. Recently, the focus has been on reducing and eliminating errors which must be acknowledged and actively addressed. With the help of Quality Improvement Organizations, hospitals and health professionals are doing just that, and the issue can only get better because of their efforts.

Overall, I am happy with the integrated care I receive. Most of all, I am happy that my doctors genuinely care for my well-being. Most health care professionals are big-hearted, clear-intentioned individuals trying to do the right thing. They are in this field because they want to be and because they care.

Charles Pascale originally shared his story at the Healthcare Quality Strategies, Inc. (HQSI) Care Integration All-Community Learning Session on June 28, 2012 in Glassboro, N.J. (pictured above). HQSI is the Quality Improvement Organization for New Jersey.