Consumer awareness, prioritized resources make or break preventive service use

Carl JohnsonIncreased emphasis on prevention in health care is good policy, but it can’t become good practice unless the services get to the people who need them. In an earlier post, I shared statistics about how older adults are less likely to seek out prevention programs, programs which could have prevented 2 million premature deaths. That is an outcome we cannot accept.

Increasing consumer awareness is a must. Showing consumers how well visits and other preventive services can improve health will be critical in the next few years as the industry continues its transition to value-based care. Health care organizations must also consider how they will accommodate patients who can benefit most from preventive services. This means rethinking how to deploy resources, both human and financial.

Getting preventive services to people who need them could mean hiring more community health workers, offering more flexible physician office hours, and better marketing of prevention programs at non-health care sites such as community centers, libraries and faith-based organizations.

Key players in this prevention effort are nurse practitioners and physician assistants. They are qualified to be the ones providing care that focuses on prevention and wellness. Combine them with care management teams and clinical care managers, and health care organizations have the ability to ensure that prevention remains a priority.

Employers can also provide a big boost to prevention programs. Imagine a company where employees are given scheduled, paid time to receive on-site well visits and preventive services. That’s a strong message employers can send in support of employee health.

Throughout this blog series, we’ve discussed the importance of getting as many people engaged with preventive services as possible. Consider this: people with chronic conditions account for 84 percent of the national health care expenditures and 99 percent of Medicare expenditures (click here for source—see page 12). And that’s just the cost side of it. Remember that only a small percentage of older adults receive any type of preventive care or well visits. Our ability to identify and effectively manage chronic conditions is one key to ensuring that value-based care keeps its promise of improved overall health and subsequent cost savings.

The difficulty of identifying at-risk patients is resulting in more investments in population analytics systems. Big data and analytics not only help pinpoint those in need of prevention, but also highlight unique characteristics of people that can result in better clinical outcomes for everyone.

In the end, when health care systems place greater emphasis on preventive services, everyone wins.

For more on the subject, please download our full white paper: Why prevention matters.

–Carl Johnson, MD, EdM, MSc.

About the Author:

Carl Johnson, MD, EdM, MSc. is a pediatrician trained at Boston Children’s Hospital. He completed a Medical Education fellowship at Harvard Medical School and was a faculty health services researcher at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Before joining Optum Analytics he worked as a physician executive at Cerner Corporation. He is a graduate of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and has held faculty positions at Harvard Medical School, University of California at San Francisco, The Ohio State University, and The Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Dr. Johnson believes that healthcare can be transformed with the help of the right data. When he is not helping to transform healthcare, he can be found playing tennis, cooking, perfecting his French, taking photographs, reading historical fiction, listening to music, and watching Ohio State Football.

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