Over the past 18 months, I’ve received a personal crash course in what it’s like to be a patient or caregiver in our current health care system. From several acute situations, like a multi-day stay in a level 1 trauma center, to an arduous physical therapy regimen as I recovered from knee surgery, to the birth of our daughter, I’ve received a lot of health care services. With every care experience, I found myself wondering: what if my provider knew my specific health care needs and how and where I preferred to receive care before I even entered into the system?
Even a cursory examination into the diversity of our communities tells us that people have vastly different needs, desires, and priorities when it comes to being healthy. Currently, our health care payment and delivery system largely drives the same type of care experience, embodied by the 15-minute appointment in a health care clinic, even though patients’ health needs and care preferences vary significantly. The result is strained patient-provider relationships, subpar patient experiences, and increasing provider burnout. Across the country, many health care leaders are questioning this approach and, in turn, critically rethinking our traditional ways of providing health care.
Designing systems that are catered to the vast diversity of needs and preferences in patient populations sounds nearly impossible at first glance. However, strategies are emerging to make providing different types and systems of care possible. One approach is to segment patient populations into different types of care seekers and catering care accordingly. A recent Deloitte Center for Health Solutions analysis (PDF)of consumer survey data resulted in six types of patients with different preferences, attitudes, and behaviors related to their health and care.
For example, “casual & cautious” patients are young and healthy, have low compliance to treatment plans, generally don’t want to see non-physician providers, and are the least likely to have a primary care provider. When contrasting these preferences with “sick & savvy” patients—who mostly have health insurance, know how to navigate primary care, are interested in non-traditional care approaches, like telehealth and non-physician workforces, and are generally compliant with care—it quickly becomes clear that different types of patients need different outreach strategies and health care interventions.
Some health systems are also taking a population health management approach to care delivery with tools like risk prediction and utilization analysis. Denver Health has garnered national attention for their sophisticated approach to population health risk stratification, which includes extensive outpatient care teams for their highest risk patients and less costly preventive approaches to care for their lowest risk patients. These approaches to care delivery can free up scarce resources to be targeted at high-cost, high-need patients, including addressing the social and economic conditions that drive poor health in this population.
Redesigning our health care systems and payment structures in these ways results in more patient-centered approaches to care. It’s a shift to what Dr. Zubin Damania calls Health Care 3.0. At our annual fundraising luncheon, HEALTHtalks on September 20th, he will share examples of these new approaches to care and make the case that this shift is imperative if we’re to truly improve quality of care, reduce health disparities, lower health care costs, and empower our providers. To do this, we need to reimagine what type of care people need, where delivery of health care happens, and who delivers that care. Patients like me are counting on it.