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by Zane Burke
Published on February 16, 2017

This article is part four of a four-part series originally published on Healthcare IT News.

Population health management is showing us that the future of the industry is person-centered care.

Today, organizational population health management strategies typically focus on improved care coordination, communication and analytics. But there is a growing emphasis on consumer empowerment and access to promote person-centered care. Many organizations are looking for tools to better engage and intervene with their consumers, as well as to get a more continuous picture of what's happening with them.

The first move for many was to implement a patient portal. While a good step forward, patient portals are often more focused on the administrative functions of being a patient — scheduling appointments, paying bills and providing access to records. To truly connect with a population, health systems need a multi-pronged approach to activate and empower consumers as active participants in their health and care. One way to encourage higher personal involvement is by encouraging the use of mobile health applications and devices.

Consumers use a variety of mobile applications and devices to track and manage their lives, from managing their finances and travel to staying current with family and friends on social media. In the same vein, there has been an explosion of health-related applications and devices in the market aimed at helping consumers better understand and manage their health. From tracking steps, physical activity levels, diet and sleep patterns to calculating clinical measurements like weight, blood pressure and glucose, data from these connected devices flows into electronic health records in near real-time. Wirelessly transmitted data then can be incorporated into a person's plan of care to promote improved coordination and communication with the care team through proactive engagement.

Remote connectivity of applications and devices provides the care team with an "always-on," day-to-day picture of what's happening with a person, rather than relying on periodic measurements captured in a care venue. These models of virtual health care empower consumers to manage their health and care in new ways. Person-centered care involves meeting the individual where they are — and for many, that means connecting with them when they're at work, at home or on the go.

Video visits are another element of virtual health care. These simulate traditional office visits in a more convenient environment for both the provider and the consumer. Video visits support improved provider-consumer communications for disease prevention, education, rehabilitation and more. By reducing unnecessary costs and travel times, video visits can be of particular benefit to people with mobility issues, transportation limitations or environmental concerns.

By making health care easy and accessible for consumers through technology, we're enabling them to be active participants in their health choices. Devices and telehealth are only two ways in which consumers are proactively engaging in virtual health care technologies.

Population health management is showing us that the future of the industry is person-centered care. By tapping into a consumer's lifestyle, we can engage people at the right time, every time, to help every person live a healthier life. It is an exciting and revelatory time to be working at the intersection of health and technology.

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