Person-Centered Health Data Management Systems: Key to Sustainable U.S. Health Care

by Michael Critelli

The U.S. health care system is a $2.5 trillion industry comprising multiple powerful stakeholder groups, often with competing interests. It is therefore crucial to identify guiding principles and priorities by which all stakeholders may be held accountable. For example, there is broad consensus for the following two mandates:

  • The U.S. health care system needs to function to provide the best possible quality of care and service for the patient (i.e. become more patient-centered).
  • The U.S. health care system needs to deliver higher value care in order to improve long-term access and achieve financial sustainability.

Engaging individuals as informed and empowered participants in their health, as well as discerning consumers of health care is essential to achieving these goals.

Person-centered ("person" because we are not all patients) health information management systems -- IT solutions that put individuals in control of their health data, allow them to share their data and communicate with anyone who is involved in their health, and provide them with the information and tools they need to improve their health and health care -- will emerge as powerful solutions that will be critical to the long-term performance of the U.S. health care system. 

In an era where clinical and non-clinical digital health information is proliferating, the only way to achieve a truly patient-centered health care system is to aggregate and exchange this information at the point of the patient. Doing so will accelerate efforts aimed at achieving comprehensive patient health records, health information exchange and coordinated care, thus improving care quality and eliminating waste.

Why Are Person-Centered Health Information Management Systems Needed?

The prevalence of largely preventable, lifestyle-related chronic conditions continues to soar, now accounting for an estimated three-quarters of health care spending. Americans need to become more informed, engaged and empowered to improve their daily health behaviors, and, in doing so, stem the rising tide of chronic disease-driven demand for care. Person-centered health information management systems that combine clinical and non-clinical data, mobile capabilities, devices that track behaviors and biometrics, and personalized incentives will become a cost-effective method to achieve population wide health behavioral change.

For those with chronic conditions, person-centered health information management systems and the robust (and ever-growing) ecosystem of health tools and services that they support and enhance -- such as health metric tracking, disease self-care tools and personal health coaching -- will improve quality of life, while dramatically reducing the associated health care cost burden.

For all individuals who engage with the health care system, person-centered health information management systems will support empowering tools to facilitate discerning health care consumerism, such as provider quality and price transparency services. With more and more Americans moving toward consumer-driven health plans, consumers must be equipped with the information and tools necessary to make value-based health care decisions.

An estimated $375 billion per year in uncompensated care is provided by caregivers. Person-centered health information management systems will empower these individuals to more efficiently and effectively track, coordinate and deliver care for their loved ones.

Person-centered health information management systems stand to benefit every health care stakeholder.

Employers have a strong incentive to provide their employees and their families with solutions that will effectively engage them to improve their health and health care; they stand to mitigate health care spending while realizing improved productivity and loyalty. Health plans have an opportunity to more effectively influence the health and health care spending of their members, allowing them to better manage population risk and provide more competitive insurance products.

As health care providers are weaned off of fee-for-service reimbursement and required to share greater levels of financial risk (such as in accountable care organizations), they will become increasingly motivated to engage their patients as partners to more cost-effectively manage their health and care.

Finally, and most importantly, individuals have, for far too long, been left in the dark when it comes to their health and health care. This is bad for health and it is bad for health care. When Americans are equipped with the information and the tools they need to become discerning consumers of health care, they will be better positioned to demand the high value health care system that we so desperately need.

Kel Mohror
Person-centered health information management systems are available in "draft" form from Google, Microsoft, many hospitals,and health plans. Hospitals and health plans fail to broadly market the systems nor even recommend a PHR to patients, family members, or subscribers. A "myBabyPHR," "myGradeSchoolPHR," and a "myWorkPlacePHR" would bring person-centered health information management systems thinking to the forefront of a person's health and wellness efforts.

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