Technological and social innovation in the field of integrated care


We are in the context of a remarkable increase in the number and types of social health care needs. By ‘social health care needs’ we mean the convergence of health care and social care prevention, assistance or intervention needs of individuals in long-lasting, strong, close or connected ways in situations like ageing, disability, chronic disease or dependency. Integrated care may be the name of the answer to those needs.

Within this field, it is necessary to develop improved knowledge-based strategies, structures and interventions (especially those based on research, development and innovation, R&D+i) for prevention and assistance in ageing, dependency, chronic disease and disability. Here you have some key ideas:

  1. Orientation toward individuals and their health, autonomy, coexistence and wellbeing. The integrated care approach assumes that response systems (social and health care services, sometimes housing as well) should be flexible and versatile enough to focus on individuals all the time, adapting responses to needs rather than people to structures. This should be done while taking into account the fact that structures are essential and must be strengthened and developed, and that they are still asymmetrical (health care systems are currently much more developed than social services). Focusing on individuals means strong commitment to their rights and dignity and, therefore, to equality, fairness, participation and solidarity.
  2.  Stimulus and synergy. We must see R&D+i on the basis of complementariness and cooperation between agents. Integrated care in chronic disease, dependency, ageing and disability is a strategic field of action on both economic and social terms and a key area for personal happiness, community health, social wellbeing, work development and economic competitiveness.
  3.  Public-social-private cooperation. Cooperation between government agencies and civil society and enterprises must be broadened in concentric circles. Integrated care must be one of the key issues in public policy and social investment.
  4. Orientation toward knowledge-based strengthening of industrial fabric producing goods and services. We must be oriented toward knowledge transfer and application in business to create wellbeing, cohesion, employment and wealth at the local and the global level, that is, in the local and the global market. The application of R&D+i results to real, viable products and services improving people’s quality of life must be a driving force and an all-encompassing principle.
  5. Community approach. We must embrace the community model, understood as the model strengthening relational ties and citizen participation in response to people’s needs, and the promotion and protection of people’s health, integration, autonomy and wellbeing in their usual geographical and social environments. We must be committed to integrated care innovation and intervention in disability, ageing, depending or chronic disease situations enhancing the responsibilities and roles of the people involved or affected by these situations, their families and networks.
  6. Efficiency and sustainability. We must seek to have smart, austere and productive structures and diversify financing sources and modes.
  7. Enhancement and visibility of the prominent role of the social health care area within the science, technology and innovation system. We must look for a better interaction of the actors involved in integrated care and social policy into the structure and dynamics of science, technology and innovation at the local and the global level, overcoming the apparent deficit in social services (health care has traditionally been more integrated into this structure and dynamics). Sometimes the key does not lie in creating new instruments and initiatives but rather in facilitating the participation of social health care actors in existing structures and dynamics.
  8. Technological and social innovation. We believe in the synergy between technological innovation (knowledge-based innovation in standardised ways of doing things) and social innovation (improvements in social structure and dynamics with an impact on collective wellbeing) can bear fruit in the integrated care field. Integrated care innovation can be one of the keys in social innovation for the strengthening of the welfare system and welfare economics.

We will be talking about these and other issues in the annual ESPAnet conference about the lost and the new worlds of welfare from September 3 to 5 in Odense.