The concept of Population Health has been gaining momentum over the past few years, and though strategies vary, the concept uses data and analytics to improve health of population groups, while helping create better and more cost effective healthcare delivery.  By collecting and analyzing patient data – both aggregated data about individual patients as well as anonymized data across communities – providers can identify trends and opportunities for delivering better care to more patients, creating a more efficient healthcare network and, ultimately, driving a healthier society.

Connected healthcare is experiencing growth due its many proven benefits and emerging use cases, and it has tremendous potential for driving the success of population health programs by helping reduce many of the barriers to effective care, ultimately benefitting patients and their communities as well as providers.  This is particularly important as chronic condition cases continue to increase.  By 2020, it’s anticipated the 157 million people will suffer from chronic disease, about 48% of the current U.S. population.  About half of them will suffer from multiple conditions.

So why is connected health the key to population health?

Increased access and reach

Connected healthcare removes geographic barriers to healthcare services at both ends of the spectrum.  It allows patients who may otherwise have difficulty getting to providers for treatment connect with doctors and specialists without having to leave their homes, or to connect with specialists further away from their local physician’s office.  Likewise, providers are able to reach patients in expanded geographies to ensure they are can treat more patients suffering from various conditions from multiple locations.  In addition, connected health services like store and forward, video communication, and others, allow physicians to more effectively share information and collaborate on effective treatment plans for patients.

More informed care

Data aggregation can provide valuable information to help ensure patients are getting the best treatment for their conditions.  Having all patient information in a comprehensive database allows for complete analysis so doctors are able to have a complete understanding of patients’ conditions, as well as providing insight into improvement or regression with various treatments.  Wearables and other remote patient monitoring devices can track various statistics in real time, not only providing a source continuous source of patient data, but can provide earlier warnings based on individual thresholds, allowing proper care to be administered sooner, leading to better results.

Aggregate (anonymized) data across patient populations allows providers to identify trends related to various conditions, treatment plans, and patient demographics.  The information can provide insight into most effective treatments based on results across populations, as well as identifying triggers and symptoms for various conditions to begin treatment earlier.

Patient engagement

By creating a system of data collection – whether that’s through the use of automated data from connected devices, or by enabling patients to enter regular information on diet, activity, vital statistics, etc. into an online portal – healthcare providers drive increased patient engagement and involvement.  Increased and repeated engagement drive greater awareness of conditions, treatment, and prevention, leading to increased overall health.

Greater agility across system

A digital system for healthcare data and delivery can increase the overall ability of providers to treat patients.  The elimination of many manual clerical tasks thanks to automated systems for data collection and analytics gets information to physicians faster.  That allows them to start or adjust treatment plans earlier and more easily, or escalate treatments as necessary, including directing patients to hospitals and emergency care providers sooner.  Faster treatment can mean fewer complications and follow-ups, which allows doctors to see more patients, helping address the current physician shortage challenge.

Financial benefits

All of these factors can also have a positive impact on healthcare costs.  Automation, digital information, remote consultations, earlier diagnosis, increased patient engagement, and other impacts of connected healthcare reduce the time and cost of delivering care.  At the same time, the efficiency gains allow more patients to be served, increasing revenue, further offsetting high costs of care.

Connected healthcare has the ability to impact individual patients positively, but the right system and increased adoption will have a positive impact in population health.  Between the ability to deliver better results more efficiently and the associated financial benefits, connected healthcare as part of a population health strategy also has the potential to reduce many of the factors driving physician burnout.

To find out how to make connected health part of your population health strategy, click here.

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