Health Care Delivery: Features of Integrated Systems Support Patient Care Strategies and Access to Care, but Systems Face Challenges
Health care delivery in the United States often lacks coordination and communication across providers and settings. This fragmentation can lead to poor quality of care, medical errors, and higher costs. Providers have formed integrated delivery systems (IDS) to improve efficiency, quality, and access. The Health Care Safety Net Act of 2008 directed GAO to report on IDSs that serve underserved populations--those that are uninsured or medically underserved (i.e., facing economic, geographic, cultural, or linguistic barriers to care, including Medicaid enrollees and rural populations). In October 2009, GAO provided an oral briefing. In this follow-on report, GAO describes (1) organizational features IDSs use to support strategies to improve care; (2) approaches IDSs use to facilitate access for underserved populations; and (3) challenges IDSs encounter in providing care, including to underserved populations. GAO selected a judgmental sample of 15 private and public IDSs that are clinically integrated across primary, specialty, and acute care; they vary in their degree of integration, specific organizational features, and payer mix (e.g., extent to which they serve Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and the uninsured). GAO interviewed chief medical officers or other system officials at all 15 IDSs and conducted site visits at 4 IDSs, interviewing system executives and clinical staff.