By Karen Parrish
This week, professionals from around the world are attending eHealthWeek to discuss trends, innovations and solutions to address the ongoing challenges in healthcare. There certainly won’t be a lack of data and discussion about cost, wellness, aging populations and dealing with chronic conditions. While there are plenty of opinions, what’s missing from this deluge of points of view is a holistic approach to meeting needs of individuals – an approach IBM calls Smarter Care.
We’ve known for decades that health and social systems are interdependent and have a critical impact on each other. Yet the complex matrix of public and private stakeholders in the health and well-being of citizens still operate largely within silos, providing separate and disparate care.
For example, does your grandmother’s home health aide understand the new therapy prescribed to her? Does the social services worker have insight into the medical issues behind her disability? Does the social security office understand how her benefits should be determined at this stage in her life? Does the pharmacist down the street realize that her doctor just gave her a sample for a new blood thinner that may interact with her other medications? While these caregivers, agencies and social services support organizations all have her well-being in mind, many times – not necessarily to any fault of their own – they lack insight and collaboration to see the bigger picture.
The promise of Smarter Care is that the health and well-being of an individual can be mapped out over a lifetime, helping him or her make informed decisions and just as importantly, aiding the healthcare and social services ecosystem to know what to do. At each state of an individual’s life, the end goal is to know when to incorporate preventive care, thereby lowering risks and everyone’s costs. The result: healthier and more prosperous citizens and communities.
So how do we get to Smarter Care? With access to unprecedented amounts of Big Data, forward- looking organizations and governments are creating new opportunities to observe, analyze and coordinate the interconnections between social determinants, clinical factors and lifestyle choices.
Take the case of Catalonia, Spain. Sixty percent of its population over 65 has chronic diseases and consumes 70 percent of the region’s healthcare resources. Through a pilot program, the Catalan Institute of Health is working closely with the Catalonian government to tackle the problem through a more coordinated chronic disease management process. The organizations are pulling together information that previously resided in more than 20 databases and many custom and commercial applications to provide a holistic view of each patient.
In the Region of Southern Denmark (RSD), 22 percent of the citizens suffer from some form of a chronic illness, including about 70,000 who suffer from heart disease. To combat this problem, RSD is launching a pilot program with IBM to facilitate real-time communication among patients, physicians, pharmacists, mental health professionals and specialists so all parties have insight into patient care plans.
Smarter Care is a new way of thinking for private and public sector organizations. It delivers on the promise of holistic and individualized care, focusing on people, not programs. This is our opportunity to help address quality, costs and outcomes, and drive individual wellness and community vitality.