What Is the Definition of Health Continuum?

Buero Monaco/Taxi/Getty Images

The health continuum refers to an integrated system of health care that follows a patient through time or through a range of services. The goal of a health continuum is to offer a more comprehensive patient care.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the continuum of care “describes the delivery of health care over a period of time.” The concept of a health care continuum evolved as a way for health professionals to better document care over time and across specialties to offer a more unified approach. By taking the full array of health services into consideration, patients can transition seamlessly between specialists.

The health continuum often involves an interdisciplinary or case management team that includes a physician as well as non-medical administrators. The team collaborates to document the patient’s progress of care. This coordinated effort assists day-to-day decision-making and ensures that the patient is receiving the highest possible quality of care. The National Institutes of Health explains that for patients with chronic or life-threatening diseases, such as cancer, the continuum of care begins at diagnosis and continues through the end of life. In addition to chronic diseases, the health care continuum is often used in mental health and home health cases.