Putting the patient centre-stage – the final step to Integrated Care

We know that Integrated Care requires the gathering and storing of information, appropriate access and collaborative action. Now we talk about how to put the patient at the centre and deliver precise care to them. 

Apparently, the secret to telling a good story is to make sure that the plot is driven by the needs and motivations of the central character. Oddly enough, the key concept of Integrated Care is very similar: it casts the patient in the leading role, and the actions of the disparate players involved in delivering healthcare pivot around the central hero. When the patient steps into the metaphorical spotlight they not only become the focus of the story but they are also empowered to become active participants.

There is a body of research that shows how informed decision making and behaviours on the part of the patient can facilitate improved health outcomes. Changing consumer attitudes and behaviours also mean that patients today want to be more engaged in their own ‘healthcare story’. A secure, online patient portal is perfect for this. Some individual health practices may already have these portals but they are usually limited to booking appointments and providing information on that practice’s services.

A better idea would be a centralised portal, displaying all the patient’s interactions across all the different health services they interact with. It should include functions such as appointment scheduling and billing, but also the ability for patients to contribute quantified-self data to their own health record – such as real-time, automatic uploads of data captured by wearable devices. Implementing functionalities that patients find relevant and useful, and extending access via a mobile application, will encourage user adoption and could ultimately lead to better health outcomes. 

And it’s not just about consumer data. Once all the patient’s health data has been aggregated in the system, it can then be scrutinised using analytics tools. By integrating genomic, environmental and lifestyle data (and other new data sources) into the patient record, physicians can make diagnostic and treatment decisions based on a deeper understanding of that patient’s pre-disposition to certain illnesses and the likely effectiveness of prescribed treatments. We call this emerging model of healthcare Precision Medicine. 

Precision medicine combines all information unique to an individual, and identifies prevention and treatment strategies that will be effective for them based on genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors.

While health determinants in isolation are interesting, they are more powerful in combination, so imagine what could be achieved by analysing the health data of an entire population and applying those learnings to an individual. Obesity, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, mental health and dementia are becoming persistent, widespread health problems globally. Chronic conditions are the biggest driver of healthcare costs in Australasia. Mining the whole population’s data for patterns and insights could help clinicians and healthcare workers to plan preventative action targeted at specific communities and at-risk individuals. Taking the process full circle, those communities and individuals will already be more engaged and empowered in their personal health thanks to the patient portal and mobile application embedded in the centralised Health IT platform. The result will be better prevention of the onset of preventable chronic disease and a population that stays healthier for longer. 

This sort of data mining can also be applied to help identify actions that drive improvements in quality and efficiency within healthcare operations. It could also uncover ways of keeping up with the ongoing and ever-increasing regulatory reporting requirements.

While precision medicine is the future, the reality is that many healthcare providers are still struggling with the current challenge of delivering quality Integrated Care. Healthcare IT has a huge part to play in the seamless integration of our healthcare systems, and adopting the right strategies, including patient engagement tools and health analytics, is crucial to generating both a clinical and financial ‘happily ever after’.

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Read the whitepaper on the 6 essential steps to support a coordinated model of care delivery.