Can Tech bridge the Gap in Population Health?

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Some might argue technology already plays a significant role in population health. In the USA, almost 54% of physician offices use a basic Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system to support care delivery, and 85% use any form of EMR functionality. There are three primary EMR providers in the USA and many smaller ones, and patient acceptance on having their records stored electronically is high, while 10-15% of patients state they withhold information from their health care provider due to privacy concerns. Over a third of people are using technology to track cost aspects of their healthcare.

Technology and Population Health

In prior posts, I have written about the promise of technology as it relates to healthcare. A new JAMA viewpoint from Dr. Anne Stey and colleagues from the University of California, San Francisco, presents the case for tech companies and healthcare companies working more closely together to improve population health. The piece makes many excellent points: leveraging technology could help with access to care by supporting patients more seamlessly; however, it calls into question how technology can best support those who have multiple chronic conditions as well as those who experience disenfranchisement who coincidentally also happen to be the highest utilizers of care. These populations may be the best areas for development of approaches that leverage technology to augment traditional healthcare delivery which has had a tendency to be fragmented and siloed.

Dr. Stey and colleagues also point at opportunities in addressing the entire continuum of care, including prevention and wellness, to support people in living healthier lives, thereby aiming to slow the tsunami of patients who will be joining existing patients with diabetes and heart disease.

Funding Models May Need to Change

Tremendous opportunity for collaboration exists. New companies are entering the market every day. One hurdle is that the runway for deploying tech solutions in healthcare is a long, multi-year journey which can often be at odds with venture capital funding cycles, so perhaps new funding models need to be developed to enable innovation to be tested optimally in the right settings. These more modern collaborations will also have implications for a more “benefit corporation” type structure, in which the sole purpose isn’t just profit driven but combines the latter with an intention to deliver social good. Continuing to address privacy and data use concerns will need to be at the core of the development process. The future remains interesting! I will continue to track these developments in future blog posts.

Thanks for reading- Trina
(My opinions are my own)


EMR use in the USA

The landscape of EMR providers in the USA

Perceptions of Privacy

Using Tech to Track Health

Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. ‘Individuals Use of Technology to Track Health Care Charges and Costs,’ Health IT Quick-Stat #57. April 2018.

JAMA viewpoint on implications for technology and population health

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