Technology and global population health: How individuality and preemption can improve outcomes

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There is a growing presence of HONDAs in the world. No, not the car; rather, a demographic of individuals that is putting significant strain on the global healthcare industry.

HONDAs — hypertensive, obese, noncompliant, diabetic adults — are growing in numbers in the United States and globally as indicated by numerous reports illustrating the country's overall less-than-ideal health. This global trend demonstrates it isn't a problem faced by Americans alone.

"No matter what country or healthcare model I visit, people are seeing the same trends," said Rich Berner, president of Allscripts International and Sunrise at the Becker's Hospital Review 6th Annual Meeting in Chicago. "Everybody's facing the same problems; aging populations with multiple comorbidities. This is putting additional pressure on a system where access is already an issue."

Mr. Berner said most countries in the global healthcare industry are experiencing a collective mindset shift toward population health.

"We realize we can't wait for patients to show up at our door, diagnose the problem, hopefully fix the problem and then send them on their way," Mr. Berner said. "If we really want to decrease cost and improve quality, we have to think about how we manage our populations proactively and predictively."

Making that shift requires healthcare providers to be able to do four key things: data aggregation, risk stratification, care coordination and patient engagement. Once these activities are in effect, analytics must interpret the multiple data points across these areas to meet unique and ever-changing patient population needs.

A key to ensuring all data points across the care continuum are considered in these analyses means patients must be personally engaged in their own health and care. Around the world, countries are leveraging technology as a tool for patient engagement. And, countries that are using technology in this manner are seeing initial returns on investment, he added.

For example, when a care coordinator is connected to a patient or citizen through a portal, the coordinator can check-in on the patient and send instructions when needed. When the patient completes the instructed action, the care coordinator receives an alert.  Mr. Berner outlined this example in the context of patient prep before procedures. Providers can monitor patient weight gain in the weeks prior to the surgery and can coach patients to avoid weight gain or, if needed, cancel and reschedule surgery if they notice significant fluctuations that require surgery to be postponed.

"It's enough of a struggle just to get a patient to step on the scale every day, but if that automatically gets updated and signaled, it makes it easy to see, monitor and communicate the provider's thanks," Mr. Berner said.

This personalization of healthcare, combined with the population capabilities, are the predominant emerging characteristics for today's care environments. Not only do these capabilities ensure adherence to treatments and care plans, but they also develop more targeted, specific and impactful treatment methods. Technology, Mr. Berner said, must reflect that individualization and collective population management.

"It's almost an oxymoron that we have to start managing populations but also have to get more personalized," Mr. Berner said. "We have to make sure from the genomic, individualized perspective the technology we're using for healthcare takes in this information and provides the needed decision support for caregivers and their patients. Costs to run tests are getting cheaper and cheaper, and data are becoming more and more available and analyzable, so we are personalizing that care and benefiting whole populations."

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