Nowadays integrated care (IC) has become a term adopted across the world underpinning a positive attitude toward defragmentation of service provision inside health and social systems.
Since lack of healthcare coordination is often a major problem for chronic and frail patients, integration has certainly commendable aims. Striving for combining parts to form a whole, IC aims at optimizing care and treatments to patients and their caregivers. However, while the principles supporting IC are simple, their implementation is more controversial.
As it often happens in the health literature, IC has rapidly become an ‘umbrella concept’ open to various interpretations. After the launch of an international journal in 2000 including IC in its name, a search conducted a decade later had already found more than 175 definitions. Recently, even the European office of the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a working document to provide conceptual clarity on IC models.
Here, we summarize the current narrative and the main issues of IC. Then, we draw lessons for Europe and finally put forward a few recommendations in the perspective of a long-term harmonization in the European Union (EU).