Monday, 26 December 2016

Population Health, Stephen Shortell and ICT

Josep M. Picas

A few days ago, Jordi Varela published his editorial on "The health of the population beyond the integration of services" based on an excellent document from the King's Fund. The truth is that good news about the evolution of health models are rare, although it might be better to speak of "frameworks" in the field of health. The theme seems so powerful that, obviating the already mentioned conceptual aspects, I’d like to use it to bring forward some aspects related to information systems.

Progress in concepts such as Health Maintenance Organizations and Accountable Care Organizations have come together with the evolution of the great potential of information systems and data processing that has been developed in recent years, and here we find some of the best ideologues on health systems in these times, for example Stephen M. Shortell who, among other prominent curricular aspects, is emeritus dean of the School of Public Health at the University of California - Berkeley, discussing ICT tools and content. So I suggest reading two articles written by Shortell. The first, “A bold proposal for advancing population health” which was published as a discussion paper by the Institute of Medicine, develops the conceptual model and suggests the future development of the payment system and health financing towards one based on health and not on disease, more transversal between health care, public health and community services. Shortell emphasizes the problem of professionals’ cultural barriers when faced with this approach, as Varela said in the aforementioned article. In the second article, "A Proposal for Financially Sustainable Population Health Organizations", Yasnoff, Shortliffe & Shortell propose the creation of banks of health information that unifies, under the management of the patient themselves, electronic medical records – the individuals and population’s health, a surely trendsetting approach.

Displaying data, analyzing, sharing and monitoring; joining health and social services with physical activity and nutrition, socio-economic environments and public safety, housing and many others; this approach suggests that we started doing well with sensitivity to social needs as our society currently points. Some may think that we’ll get stuck in rhetoric again but this time it won’t be the case: Please observe the graph that is the result of a search on Google, where four of the big companies: Microsoft, McKesson, IBM and InterSystems are already on the subject. Can anyone doubt that we have started a new era?

Dashboards, Big Data / Analytics, Healthier & Smart Cities... to improve the health of the population, perhaps a little naive, but why not?

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