Making Sense Out of Buzzwords

As another HIMSS conference looms around the corner, it’s time to place your bets on which healthcare trends and buzzwords will emerge from the exhibit floor.  At past conferences, we have been hit over the head with the promise of Population Health, mHealth, Data Analytics, Interoperability, etc.  With over 1,300 health IT companies planning to showcase their latest and greatest solutions this month in Orlando, let’s face reality – it is difficult for marketing teams to be truly innovative and not just follow the crowd year after year (similar to how the Super Bowl ads seem to get more stale as I grow older).  Unfortunately for attendees, this can create a general feeling of murkiness in our brains after speaking with a couple of vendors who all seem to be claiming to do the same remarkable feats (e.g., “we can be the one-stop shop for your analytics needs”; “we offer a population health solution that can be leveraged across your enterprise”; “we integrate with all EHRs”).

Part of the confusion is due to the nature of new market needs evolving and maturing over time, often blending into related ideas.  One example of this phenomenon is the relatively narrow definition of “personalized medicine” overlapping with the broader concepts of “personalized healthcare” and “patient-centered care”.  On the surface, all 3 buzzwords highlight healthcare decisions that are made at the individual patient level rather than at the population level.  However, the expected goals and transformation of these concepts into usable solutions are quite different. 

Personalized medicine (aka individualized medicine or precision medicine) is an idea that has grown in popularity over the last 10 years and refers to treatments tailored to the individual patient based on their genetic profile or analysis of other molecular or cellular factors.  While the future vision of personalized medicine is often painted across multiple acute and chronic conditions, its current level of adoption is relatively limited to specific use cases in oncology and immunology.  More widespread development and utilization of personalized medical diagnostics and treatments will continue to be a challenge given the regulatory and stakeholder incentive alignment hurdles that need to be addressed as the market shifts towards value-based care.

Personalized healthcare is a broader concept used by many healthcare systems and companies over the last 5 years to describe additional types of inputs (e.g., demographics, data from mobile devices, laboratory values, co-morbidities, social determinants of health, etc.) that can be used to inform which patients are more likely to be at-risk for certain conditions or respond to specific treatments.  Often in the form of individualized care plans, personalized healthcare brings the predictive analytic capabilities from population health closer to the point of decision-making for individual patients.  Thus, its applicability to more commonly seen chronic diseases, as well as overall health and wellness, is more extensive and potentially easier to justify in this era of healthcare reform.

Patient-centered care was highlighted as 1 of 6 aims for healthcare system improvement in the Institute of Medicine’s 2001 report, Crossing the Quality Chasm.  While the outputs of personalized medicine and personalized healthcare contribute to some of the objectives of patient-centered care, they do not directly address other important tenets, such as the incorporation of patient values in the decision-making process, the partnership between patients/families/caregivers and health providers, and the measurement of patient perception and satisfaction.  Patient-centered care shifts the legacy physician-centered care model to a team-based care model that revolves around a patient’s needs, goals, and preferences.  The types of solutions addressing these diverse market needs range from shared decision-making aids (e.g., WiserCare) and end-of-life planning and communication tools (e.g., MyDirectives) to a plethora of digital platforms designed to enhance and improve the connection and communication between patients and their healthcare team.  

Given the marketing department’s natural tendency to interchange related buzzwords in the description of their company’s mission and solution set, it is important to be clear when speaking to healthcare vendors who promote their patient-centeredness or personalization capabilities on the concrete goals your organization is hoping to achieve, as well as the data and resources that are readily available, to best understand how their solutions can potentially address your organization’s specific challenges and objectives.

I hope to see you at HIMMS 2017.  What market trends are you most excited to learn about?  Which buzzwords do you anticipate will be overused?