Over the past few months, we've used this blog to talk about a lot of important issues we face as employees and citizens, ranging from traffic and banking to food and energy. But none of these topics resonates on a personal level quite as much as healthcare. Each of us cares intimately about the quality of our healthcare for ourselves, our families and our friends. We care about whether we have access to care, and whether we can afford it even if we do. And, finally, we care that we get the best care available when we need it most.
But what does smarter healthcare actually mean? Well, it might mean something slightly different for each individual, but I'm sure the same major characteristics apply. For me, smarter healthcare would be a system where my two-year old niece has access to the best doctors to treat her Leukemia; where her doctors have access to the best researchers finding more effective cures for these conditions; and where those researchers have access to all the available data so they can best understand, discover and invent cures for the disease in the first place. That, to me, is what matters.
The problem is, the healthcare systems around the world – and certainly here in the U.S. – are incredibly fragmented and inefficient. While I give doctors tremendous amounts of credit for the quality of care they provide, we can give them better information and tools to be even more effective. This would allow them to move beyond trial and error treatment to more fully data and information based prevention and treatment.
Richard Reece, author of the medinnovationblog, recently posted the transcripts of a speech given by Paul Grundy, MD, and director of IBM's Healthcare Transformation. In the speech, Paul outlines a number of potential opportunities for making our healthcare system smarter, including patient-centered care, better analytics on which to base research, and a concept called the "medical home." Following are some excerpts from that post and speech.
Smart healthcare is giving rise to a new model for primary care, the “medical home.” About three years ago, the people at IBM started talking about all the things that large employers in the U.S. have done to reduce costs and improve quality. We realized we were failing to address a fundamental issue: primary care and the doctor-patient relationship.
Shortly after that, I helped found the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative (link PCPCC), a coalition of large employers, consumer organizations and medical providers.
We developed a healthcare model based on the premise that more holistic primary care saves money by cutting the incidence of major health problems like heart disease or diabetes later in life. It’s a back-to-the-future approach to the family doctor, enabled by IT.
In the medical home model, a primary care physician acts as a healthcare coach – leading a team that manages a patient’s wellness, preventative and chronic care needs. The doctor spends more time with the patient in person, is available for consultations via email or phone, and has expanded hours and coordinates across an entire care team – nurses, specialists,
pharmacists and hospitals.
We will be addressing a number of these related issues here on this blog in the coming weeks and months. But in the meantime, what does "smarter healthcare" mean to you?
UPDATE: as my colleague, and fellow contributor to this blog, Jack Mason, noted in the comments, for a long history of related content, visit the Healthnex blog. Also, visit the Healthcare channel of the Smarter Planet Tumblr site for a more serendipitous discovery of smarter healthcare related content (another project of Jack's).