Let’s get holistic and treat patients based on more than their medical history alone!

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a_440x220Did you know that walking can cut diabetes by 50% ‐ stroke and heart attacks by 40% ‐ and key cancers by 30% or more? It can also improve depression treatments and slow Alzheimer’s progression in people at high risk!

Walking is such a simple thing to do – but yet, people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every year on healthcare treating diabetes, stroke, heart attack and cancer.  If only we looked at our social environment /lifestyle more seriously and we didn’t depend on our healthcare systems to treat us when we are sick.  In fact, a person’s medical care only accounts for 20% of their overall wellness and life expectancy. The remaining 80% includes environmental/social factors (55%), behavioral factors (20%) and genetics (5%).

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Typically 20% of the population account for 80% of the healthcare costs of a society – and this 20% of the population are typically the chronically ill or ageing population. It is this group of vulnerable patients who tend to become frequent flyers and long stayers in hospitals and increase the healthcare costs.

To address this vulnerable population both medical and non-medical parameters, from a person’s blood sugar level to his habit of drinking sugary beverages, are equally important.  Restricting solutions to solve their medical issues alone is simply ineffective.  Homelessness, loneliness, substance abuse, physical disability, and economic factors are some examples of social determinants of health that add massive costs to the healthcare system. Addressing these challenges requires smarter solutions to achieve positive and lasting outcomes.

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A good example of this is that an elderly lady with an existing heart condition lived alone in a flat with a faulty air conditioner. This extremely hot and humid weather put her health at risk and lead her to costly regular visits to the emergency room. That fact that she could not afford repairs for her air conditioning system is something that should have been made known not just to her doctors, but social workers and care givers. It would have been more cost-effective to help her install a new air conditioner, nipping the problem in the bud before it ever happened.

Having this 360 degree view of patients – including their medical condition, lifestyle, living environment and other social factors is critical in order to create and comprehensive care plan and address the holistic needs of individuals in society.  Integrated data makes it easy to report on outcomes, to see what worked and what needs to be improved. Data can also be used to develop predictive and prescriptive analysis, helping advance care coordination and improving individual and population health and wellness.    All of this can be addressed with IBM’s Smarter Care solution.

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Learn more  about IBM Smarter Care and IBM analytics solutions & offerings for the healthcare industry by visiting us at the IBM booth (#1651) at the HIMSS 2014 in Orlando, Florida; February 23-27, 2014. Follow @ibmhealthcare on Twitter to stay abreast of our latest activities and announcements and join #ibmhealthcare conversation. Also bookmark IBM HIMSS 2014 webpage for updates on IBM presence at HIMSS 2014.

Director, Healthcare and Social Services Solutions Executive, AP, IBM Industry Academy Member

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