Taking a lesson from precision medicine to improve population health, patient experiences

As the number of individuals with chronic conditions rises and consumer expectations continue to change, leaders are challenged to rethink how they impact population health and the patient experience. Precision medicine may provide a helpful framework.

Precision medicine (also called personalized medicine or individualized medicine) is an emerging approach to disease treatment and prevention that uses individual variation in genes, environment and lifestyle to target therapies and procedures. This same approach can be applied to populations. By better understanding variations within communities, organizations can target specific care models to population segments to help them achieve optimum health.

For the most part, our ambulatory care model today looks much like it has for the past several decades. While treatments and technology have evolved, the experience of patients has not been dramatically altered. This model attempts to serve all comers, caring for the healthy, acutely ill and those with complex chronic conditions. Services that are necessary to address unique patient needs or consumer expectations are often layered on top of the existing model rather than integrated.

An alternative approach is for health systems to create an ambulatory care model portfolio, which consists of multiple ambulatory access points, each focused on meeting the unique needs of population segments.

This tailored approach empowers healthcare providers to consider the patient distribution, community needs, resources and capabilities, and determine the most appropriate approach. Restructuring of healthcare delivery hinges on research and informed decision-making to build care models that deliver and refocus care by assigning resources where and when they are needed, with care provided by physicians, partners and payers equipped to manage different parts of the patient's care.

These innovative models are an important part of Ascension Medical Group's strategy to better serve communities. Over the past several months, we have been working in our communities to analyze population needs, selecting care models to best serve them, and developing a roadmap to tailor and launch these models based on capabilities and constraints.

Key components should be considered when implementing new care models. First, we must understand the populations we serve. This is achieved by thoroughly engaging the community and evaluating data to understand health challenges and needs. Second, leaders should prioritize which care models to implement initially. Population data should align with a sustainable business plan that allows health systems to have a sustainable delivery model that complements employer and payer resources. Third, we need to engage providers in the transformation. Lastly, we must evaluate the impact.

Only when we make these changes will we truly be able to meet the needs of consumers and deliver the type of care that empowers patients and improves health outcomes.

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