Few if any physicians, administrators or policy experts have more experience in the American healthcare arena than Kenneth W. Kizer, MD. The Medsphere chairman and director of the Institute for Population Health Improvement at UC Davis has served as the top health official for California and undersecretary of health for the VA. Kizer was also the founding president and chief executive for the National Quality Forum, which focuses on healthcare performance measures and quality standards.
Kizer recently had a conversation with Laura Landro of the Wall Street Journal on population health, healthcare IT and barriers to adoption of various technologies. Included below are some of the interview highlights. Click the link at the bottom to access the full WSJ article.
What is population health?
“The term population health was introduced about a decade ago to recognize the important role that factors other than health care have in determining health outcomes … Many people are surprised to learn that these social determinants of health have more to do with reducing preventable deaths and improving population health than health care itself.”
How does technology improve population health?
“Many of the new information and communication technologies have begun to be used in health care in recent years …These new technologies necessitate that we fundamentally redefine what access to health care means, since access is no longer only about face-to-face visits. Information can now be exchanged between caregivers and patients in multiple ways, which means we can design innovative ways to tailor health care to someone’s individual needs and lifestyle. The stage is set for a virtual-care revolution … These technologies also can help overcome transportation, language and other access barriers to health care for rural and inner-city populations.”
What keeps that technology from being effective?
“Perhaps at the top of the list is health care’s conservative culture, which is notoriously slow to embrace new ways of doing things, followed by lack of health-insurance payment for most virtual-care methods. Lack of payment can undermine an effective method of virtual care by making it economically nonviable … Additional barriers to virtual care include lack of infrastructure—both technological and in terms of personnel—concerns about data accuracy and reliability, especially for wearable devices, and interoperability problems among technologies, which tend to complicate collecting and analyzing the data … Overcoming these barriers will require concerted collaboration between government, health-care providers and technology vendors.”
How does technology integrate care?
“New virtual-care technologies such as health-information exchanges allow providers in different health systems to quickly and securely share information—for example, about medications, allergies or lab tests.”
How can technology and digital patient data improve outcomes in patient populations?
“Social media can be used to track infectious-disease outbreaks such as influenza and food-borne illnesses. Online immunization registries and portals can help parents and schools ensure children are appropriately vaccinated. Electronic health records can be especially useful for identifying patients who need close monitoring or extra effort to avoid emergency visits and hospitalizations. Linking electronic health records with other virtual-care technologies is being used to support new models of care like community paramedicine, in which paramedics provide home health checks or other basic services.”
Click on Wall Street Journal to read the entire excerpt from the conversation between Dr. Kizer and the Journal’s Laura Landro.