August 8, 2017

Better healthcare through better data

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Matti Ristimäki

Director of Data-Driven Businesses in Health, Wellbeing and Public, Tieto

How to create a proactive healthcare strategy?

One of the biggest social issues facing governments today is an ageing population. This is a challenge for nations around the world, and especially so in Europe and Finland, where it’s predicted that by 2040, the number of seniors will be double that of today. (Source: Eurostat 2016)

At the same time, the number of citizens of working age is expected to fall, and this is expected to create big challenges for areas such as health and social care. With a growing number of people with complex medical needs, and fewer working-age taxpayers to fund this, a change in approach will be necessary if populations are to get the high level of healthcare services they need.

A data-driven approach with predictive strategy

In order to tackle these issues, a more proactive healthcare strategy is required, and this is
where effective access to data and analytics comes in. With the right analytical tools and capabilities, organisations can use citizen and patient data to build up a much better picture of what the current situation is and what things will look like in the future.

This can be done on both an individual and population level. So for example, it can help identify citizens who are more at risk of developing specific illnesses based on factors such as their family history or lifestyle choices, while it can also give insight into wider trends.

For instance, it can identify “hotspots” where particular problems are prevalent, which may enable local authorities and other social support providers to better direct their resources where they are most needed.

A key part of a data-driven approach to healthcare is a predictive element that can forecast what the situation may look like a year or two from now. But this must be combined with algorithms that are able to model specific programmes and interventions and determine which are most likely to be effective in improving patient outcomes. This can then greatly help healthcare providers decide where to spend their limited resources.

A proactive healthcare plan to reduce health problems

Where budgets are under pressure, this kind of information will be vital. Taking proactive steps to improve people’s general health and wellbeing before problems arise is far cheaper than curing issues later. For example, efforts to encourage active, healthy lifestyles can greatly reduce the risks of problems such as diabetes and heart disease that can be a huge drain on healthcare providers’ resources.

Healthcare plans can also be better tailored to individuals, which leads to better overall outcomes. Being able to deliver personalised recommendations and advice about where people can make changes to their lifestyle can bring benefits that last a lifetime.

As well as helping elderly people remain in their own homes for as long as possible - thereby reducing the pressure on social care facilities and hospitals - a proactive, data-driven approach to health and wellbeing can benefit working-age people and their employers. By monitoring their mental and physical wellbeing and recommending steps to improve this, companies can cut down on the amount of sick leave, which not only boosts workers’ health, but benefits the bottom line as well.

Strategy for more human centered future

This can be achieved with utilizing modern technology like artificial intelligence and advanced machine learning, but the most significant issue is to transform whole organization to be data-driven. At the same time leadership team of healthcare organization need to be brave to allow technological development of data-driven capability and drive culture, processes and organizational transformation to use the data in daily bases.

It’s crusial to make it easy to manage data from multiple sources. In many cases, the necessary data already exists, but is not being utilised because it is held in multiple independent silos and it’s not in machine understandable format.

By pulling this data into a single data lake system and applying advanced analytics tools to filter out the most useful data from the noise. This will help healthcare organizations cut costs, improve outcomes and ensure that society is well-prepared for the future.

Data-Driven approach is human centered and outcome based. This will also ensure that society is well prepared for the future. Cost cuts are a natural end result though individuals are in the center of our focus.

Read Matti's previous blogs:

Recipe for smart services: data, brains and technology

Harnessing the new era of data in health for more human centric wellbeing

Read more about Data-Driven Businesses.

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