Anil Jain, M.D., vice president of IBM Watson Health, described in an article last week the five key areas he believes healthcare providers should focus on in their effort to embrace population health

  1. Getting the data. Jain believes that while “successful population health initiatives need access to relevant, accurate data,” providers must also have an understanding of a patient’s “habits, personality and environment” while using “biometric telemetry, mobile and wearable app data, public data, and social data” and “nontraditional sources such as social media, government records or even weather patterns.”
  2. Interoperability. The author puts a premium on the importance of an organisation’s ability to share data, noting that those “that take a proactive approach to interoperability by following protocols outlined in FHIR and making efforts to standardise data are at a considerable advantage when it comes to population health.”
  3. Infrastructure investment. Appreciating the role a quality infrastructure plays in any population-health program, Jain suggests that “cloud-based or hybrid solutions that mix internal capabilities with outsourced software solutions can be much more flexible and much less capital- and human resource-intensive.”
  4. Patient and provider engagement. Recognising the infrequency of patient/provider encounters, the author advocates the “smart use of technology, including natural language processing, cognitive computing and population health analytics” to help focus communications both during and after encounters.
  5. Scaling knowledge, expertise. Jain believes that “organisations need to be able to identify patient cohorts with ever more subtle and sophisticated characteristics,” but assures that cognitive computing will offer its users “the ability to analyse and interpret data to understand a population’s needs in a nuanced way, taking into account far more variables than a human could.”

These five areas align well with the seven As for precision medicine that constantly guide our work in healthcare IT—acquire, aggregate, analyse, access, act, adapt, and adopt—and it’s truly exciting to see the spirit of those concepts being reflected in the content of someone as esteemed as Anil Jain.