Ostriches vs. cyborgs: How 'patient personas' can help hospitals segment patient populations

Segmenting patient populations through patients' behavioral patterns or characteristics can improve quality metrics and target resources, among other improvements, according to an athenainsight report.

Hospitals and health systems are increasingly taking on broader risk in terms of patient care. Those risks stem from patients' lifestyles and various behaviors beyond gender, age and disease state that contribute to their overall health.

To provide the most effective, patient-centered care, some experts suggest segmenting various patient populations through "patient personas." These personas allow providers to quickly determine the best way to provide care and direct patients to the services they need.

For example, Decision Point Healthcare Solutions created two health personas to identify healthy female patients both in their late 50s. The "cyborg" represents an educated woman in need of a knee replacement, or other procedure, who regularly skips preventative screenings due to scheduling issues, but is quick to see a specialist. Based on her lifestyle habits, her primary care physician can deduce the patient may need additional appointment reminders and direct her to the types of services she needs that fit with her lifestyle. The "ostrich," on the other hand, sees her PCP regularly, but avoids coming in for additional testing and other recommended screenings. Gaps in her healthcare may be solved by in-person conversations with her care team, according to the report.

However, patient segmentation may prove the most useful in creating effective care plans for patients with chronic diseases. Arlene Ash, PhD, chief of the division of biostatistics and health services research and professor at the Worcester-based University of Massachusetts Medical School, said segmentation can help identify diabetic patients with housing issues who may not consistently refrigerate their insulin, thereby reducing its efficacy, the report states.

"Diabetes is rich for intervention because the difference between what happens when it's well-managed versus poorly managed is so great," said Dr. Ash.

To read the full report, click here.

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