Comprehensive care: What it is and why it matters

‘Thanks to new technologies, we have an historic opportunity to shift the paradigm—from episodic to continuous, comprehensive mental healthcare’. -Aleksandar Matic

Comprehensive healthcare is an essential component of managing both mental and physical health. But what is it, exactly?

The American Academy of Family Physicians defines comprehensive care as ‘the concurrent prevention and management of multiple physical and emotional health problems of a patient over a period of time in relationship to family, life events and environment’. Sometimes comprehensive care is thought of as cradle-to-grave care, particularly when the term’s used to refer to all-inclusive large-scale health systems (most commonly these are public, government-funded institutions).

How does Koa Health define Comprehensive Care?

At Koa Health, we define comprehensive care more broadly (and in simpler terms) as the coordinated delivery of the total healthcare required or requested by a patient. This care must, by definition, consider the impact of patients’ health conditions on their lives and wellbeing, be ethically delivered and clinically appropriate, and crucially, must align with patients’ personal goals for health.

Why should comprehensive care be prioritised?

Because helping people be as healthy as they can is a worthy endeavor. But to support people in achieving their goals for health, end-to-end patient care and ongoing treatment will have to become more accessible. Encouraging people to seek care to address their needs as soon as they arise is without merit if help isn’t readily available.

When people can more easily obtain diagnosis, treatment, follow-up and rehabilitation for all of their health issues, their overall wellbeing is positively affected. And improved wellbeing for more people is advantageous for everyone: insurers, employers, providers and society as a whole.

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Brooke Cagle via Unsplash.com

What are the pain points in making care comprehensive?

Unfortunately, making the comprehensive care that people need more accessible and affordable isn’t a simple problem to solve. As shortages in care providers (nurses, psychiatrists, and medical professionals) increase, the demand for support, in particular in regards to mental and physical health conditions that require long-term care, has begun to outstrip supply by leaps and bounds. And without sufficient professionals, in-person care becomes less and less accessible.

Controlling costs is also a legitimate concern. In the US alone, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, predict health spending to grow at an average rate of 5.4% per year and reach 6.2 trillion by 2028—note that this is without taking into account the effects of Covid-19.

Furthermore, the number of people with ongoing health issues that will require continuing support continues to grow, with WHO predicting chronic conditions to account for 60% of the global burden of diseases in  2020.

More concretely, mental health disorders are ranked among the most costly to treat—as of 2016, the US expenditure for this category of care was $201 billion and is expected to continue rising as experts predict a surge in mental health disorders in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

So what can be done?

To make truly comprehensive care more accessible to more people, the issues of cost and gaps in existing care will have to be adequately addressed in potential solutions. Deliverable at a distance, digital support is a comfortable option for patients, employers, providers and insurers and can be personalised to each individual’s unique circumstances.

Beyond increasing access, the more we can move mental healthcare toward continuous, comprehensive support, the better chance we have of improving people’s mental and overall health for the long haul. Because the more control that the person seeking help has, the more likely they are to feel engaged, empowered, self-directed and self-motivated to take action and continue pursuing their health goals.

Our team’s committed to doing our part to make care more comprehensive with practical, evidence-based digital support solutions and wellbeing tools. Our app-based wellbeing tools are designed by mental and behavioural health experts to enable people to better manage mental health issues ranging from workplace stress to chronic conditions requiring a doctor’s supervision with clinically validated techniques from cognitive behavioural therapy.

What obstacles does your organisation face when it comes to providing comprehensive care? Let us know at hello@koahealth.com.

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    The Team @ Koa Health

    Our diverse team of developers, researchers, psychologists and behavioral health experts work together to create practical, thought-provoking content to accompany our range of digital therapeutics.