HealthcarePapers 9(2) May 2009 : 39-44.doi:10.12927/hcpap.2009.20779
Successful next-generation healthcare must deliver timely access and quality for an aging population, while simultaneously promoting disease prevention and managing costs. The key factors for sustained success are a culture with aligned goals and values; coordinated team care that especially engages with physicians and patients; practical information that is collected and communicated reliably; and education in the theory and methods of collaboration, measurement and leadership. Currently, optimal population health is challenged by a high prevalence of chronic disease, with large gaps between best and usual care, a scarcity of health human resources - particularly with the skills, attitudes and training for coordinated team care - and the absence of flexible, reliable clinical measurement systems. However, to make things better, institutional models and supporting technologies are available. In the short term, a first step is to enhance the awareness of the practical opportunities to improve, including the expansion of proven community-based disease management programs that communicate knowledge, competencies and clinical measurements among professional and patient partners, leading to reduced care gaps and improved clinical and economic outcomes. Longer-term success requires two additional steps. One is formal inter-professional training to provide, on an ongoing basis, the polyvalent human resource skills and foster the culture of working with others to improve the care of whole populations. The other is the adoption of reliable information systems, including electronic health records, to allow useful and timely measurement and effective communication of clinical information in real-world settings. A better health future can commence immediately, within existing resources, and be sustained with feasible innovations in provider and patient education and information systems. The future is now.
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