The world of healthcare is revolving and evolving ever faster as new technologies and approaches to care take shape. Watching the transformation from the front row is Cynthia Burghard, a Research Director with IDC’s Health Insights. The Smarter Planet sat down with Burghard this week at the IBM Health and Social Programs Summit to learn more about holistic care as well as the rising role of such technologies as cloud, analytics and mobile.
Smarter Planet: Why are we finally beginning to take a holistic view of each individual in the context of their environment?
Cynthia Burghard: Many studies have identified a wide range of factors that are not clinical as determinants of health. It used to be thought that lifestyle and genetics were the key determinants of health but it has been shown that factors such as socio economics, behavioral, spiritual and environmental factors all contribute to health and disease.
The healthcare cost crisis requires a reduction in spending which can only be achieved by understanding the barriers to health. The provision of social services drives decreased utilization. The asthmatic that continues to show up in the Emergency Room can be stabilized by professionally cleaning of their dusty and moldy home. Future Emergency Room visits can be avoided.
SP: What are the most effective ways global healthcare systems are being redesigned to support our most vulnerable populations, such as the elderly or those who need mental healthcare?
CB: Multi-disciplined care teams that include clinicians, mental health professionals and social service workers appear to be an effective way to deliver integrated care. As part of many reform initiatives, such as the patient centered medical home there are dedicated staff to for example help with transitions of care. This individual may or may not be a clinician as many transition issues are related to activities of daily living or transportation for doctor appointments or financial assistance and all must be addressed to avoid re-admission. Increasingly healthcare organizations and social services are becoming more collaborative as healthcare organizations recognize the positive impact to the health of patients by providing transportation, food assistance or other community or social services.
SP: What role do cloud, analytics and mobile computing play in the future of Smarter Care?
CB: All of these technologies have a role in Smarter Care’s future. Cloud is required to manage IT costs, on premise hardware and software are becoming a thing of the past. The requirements for data integration and data sharing for care coordination are greatly facilitated with cloud infrastructure. Deployment of business applications to ever increasing complexity of provider networks and referrals is facilitated with cloud deployment.
Analytics is key to successfully meeting the Triple Aim (improve patient experience, improve health of the population, manage costs). Historically healthcare organizations have relied on static reports that provided facts mostly retrospectively with little attention to the ability to provide insight, to perform discovery, pattern analysis and other advanced analytics. In the area of case identification, most of today’s tools are pretty crude and based on claims and structured clinical information. With the introduction of big data and analytics the ability to get much more granular analytics and will allow for more personalized treatment plans that should result in improved outcomes. With the availability of new data sources (including social services, socio economics and other non-clinical determinants of health and more advanced analytics the ability to provide critical information at the point of care to improve decision making.
The use of social media in healthcare is very early stage. Most “communities of health” include more promotional material than educational or collaborative capability. There are certainly opportunities to identify public health concerns through the use of social media through the tracking chatter about symptoms and diagnoses of communicable disease. A number of healthcare organizations are using social media to gauge customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction.