By John Hearne
I recently read a story about an elderly woman with a heart condition. She lives in a building without air conditioning and there was concern that a hot and humid day in July could easily put her health at risk and possibly lead to a costly ER visit.
As the story pointed out, the reality is that a few hundred dollars for an air conditioner could solve the problem before it ever happened.
Of course, to case workers at social services agencies around the world, the difficulty of identifying interventions before situations become critical is not news.
In a perfect system, an individual’s health needs would be understood not only medically, but also in the context of their lifestyle, living environment, family conditions and other social factors. Making this information readily available to health and case workers would help them spend more time in the field where they are needed the most.
IBM, through its Smarter Care initiative, enables care providers – from healthcare and life sciences organizations to social service agencies and pharmacies – to integrate into a single view the potential impacts of social determinants, lifestyle choices and clinical factors on a person’s well-being. They can then uncover insights using predictive, content and cognitive analytics. The end result: reduced hospital re-admissions, improved wellness for the individual and lower costs.
According to the Institute for Alternative Futures, social and environmental factors may contribute as much as 40 percent of the variance in health between populations. This means one group may be at a greater risk for heart problems or asthma due to climate conditions, for example.
As hundreds of social programs directors, city welfare leaders and mayors gather in Dublin next week at the European Social Services Conference, IBM will lead a dialogue around the importance of social investment. It will also discuss ways to bring about change in the way services are designed, delivered and evaluated.
At the forefront will be a discussion about RightServicing, an approach that focuses on how to best manage stressed resources and effectively deliver services to those citizens who need it most, when they need it.
Creating an environment around Smarter Care is about identifying an individual’s strengths and needs across all dimensions of care – clinical, social and behavioral.
With this knowledge, health and case workers can bring a wider range of services to address health risks, both medical and otherwise; including access to proper housing and education, supplementary income, proper nutrition and access to transportation.