Improving Outcomes and Reducing Costs
The healthcare industry is currently experiencing change at an unprecedented rate. Not only is change occurring in the technology used in diagnostics and care delivery, but this change is so fundamental that it could, and likely will, alter the business model of the healthcare industry.
In recent years, healthcare expenditures have risen consistently and sharply in all Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, outpacing the rate of inflation.
Unfortunately, rising costs do not necessarily correlate with higher quality of care or better outcomes.
Coordination of Care, Consolidation of Expertise
The Healthcare Industry is in a rapid transformation process. The historic delivery model centered on individual clinical disciplines, in which providers are incented to perform individual tasks, is evolving toward an integrated care model, in which providers are incented to work in a more coordinated approach and to actively engage patients in their care, to manage the population's health and improve outcomes. Information systems that were designed and built for the historic fragmented care delivery model now have to be integrated to become useful and interoperable within this new environment.
In the face of these challenges of rising costs and the impact of chronic conditions, the first decade of the 21st Century has seen the start of significant changes in the way that healthcare is delivered and organized in many different countries.
A Significant Source of Cost Reduction and Quality Improvement
One of the major ways to help reduce costs, improve the patient's outcomes and quality of life is to prevent the development of chronic diseases in the first place and to keep patients adherent to therapy once diagnosed. Many times, this can only be achieved by making a patient, and the rest of their circle of care, a central part of the healthcare team, not just merely a recipient of care.
Achieving this requires major behavioral change by the patient.
Patients are an underutilized resource in the circle of care. Health systems are now recognizing that there is a reliance on the patient’s family and other individuals taking responsibility for people to play a key part in supporting the patient’s change in behavior. The circle of care is far wider than just the patient and the clinicians. The issue has to be about how a health system can help people make better decisions about their health. Open communication between providers and patients, coupled with easy-to-use technology, will help transition patients from being passive recipients of care with the potential for noncompliance to becoming a fully engaged participant of the care team. Education and communication can help lead to behavioral change, increase compliance, and ultimately lead to better outcomes and health.
One part of the healthcare system that has been very successful at behavioral change in developed and developing countries is dentistry. The vast majority of the population do brush (and even floss) their teeth, and research in the late 1970s showed that the greatest factor for people to brush their teeth was not the fear of the medical consequences, but rather that they could see a path to better health. When patients believe they can take control of their own health by doing things within their ability, they can actually make a real difference to help improve their health and reduce their risks of developing chronic disease.
Putting patients in control of their own healthcare also requires their empowerment. Healthcare has to be made more convenient, easier to access, and far simpler to perform administrative tasks, such as making appointments, checking and changing appointments, receiving reminders, seeking advice and coaching on lifestyle changes. Most people can book a round the world trip with flights and hotels without having to talk to any administrator or booking agent, but they cannot even check a hospital appointment online.
By enabling patients and their representatives to become an integrated part of the care delivery team, providers can benefit from additional patient-provided data to inform patients of their care plan and also support patients and their representatives to actively perform some basic care tasks themselves. A simple patient mobile application can be deployed to sit across a patient medical education program, providing more efficient compliance while treatment occurs.
Information and advice can be distributed to patients automatically and directly, and patients and their caretakers can provide feedback of their progress to their respective healthcare providers.