Creative Tech for Whole-patient Care

Creative technology for whole-patient care.

What exactly does that mean?

I’ve been asked that question a lot in the past two weeks.  It’s a simple concept with a complex answer, and something that is at the very core of Cyder Healthcare Solutions and everything we do.

At the concept level, it’s about seeing the entire patient.  Not just individual bits and parts.

Humans are complex creatures, and the care involved to make us “well”—notice I didn’t say healthy—is just as complex.  It involves our physical, mental and emotional health.  But it also extends to all the things that make us unique people.

Healthcare all too often seeks to boil people down to basic elements—to systems, parts, diseases, conditions, and treatments.  We apply ICD codes and labels like Obese and Diabetic to people, but those labels don’t tell the full story of the person.  All too often, when care is discussed, it is purely the clinical side of a patient.  All the things that the EMR (for better or worse) tracks, categorizes and monitors such as vital signs, medication schedules, diagnoses and allergies.

As an industry, healthcare has gotten pretty good at the clinical side of care.  At seeing people as collections of clinical data to be assessed, considered and then diagnosed and, if necessary, treated.

However, the clinical aspects are only half of the patient.  There is another whole side of the patient that is, to a large extent, just begging to be discovered.  The complex and tremendously important social side of the patient.

The social side of a patient takes into account a wide variety of nontraditional factors. At Cyder we’re putting the focus on three specific, vital aspects of each patient.

First, a patient’s individual experience and his perception of his health.

What is his experience?  How has he been treated in the healthcare system?  What sort of relationships does he have with his healthcare providers?  What is his perception of his illnesses?  Is he satisfied with his care?  Can he easily access his care, or is it a challenge?

Understanding the patient experience is a key concept and one growing with the support of research.  The Institute for Healthcare Improvement even calls out “improving the patient experience of care” as part of its Triple Aim.

But to improve a thing, you must understand the thing.  To do that, you need to measure and record it, and then analyze it.  Only then can you make plans, institute change and seek improvements.

Second on the list is a patient’s health literacy.

Health Literacy is, quite simply, a patient’s ability to understand, participate in and effectively engage in the process of her healthcare.

Recent studies have suggested that more than 30% of adults in the US population do not have sufficient health literacy to successfully participate in their own care.

This means that patients can’t understand medication instructions, don’t comprehend hospital discharge instructions, fail to follow dietary guidelines, and may not effectively communicate with their healthcare provider because they can’t understand or remember what is being told to them.

Health literacy speaks to the very core of being healthy.  If a patient can’t understand how to follow a doctor’s instructions, all the care in the world will fail him once he leaves the clinical setting.

The challenge is, how do we find out a patient’s health literacy level?

We ask.

We ask in ways that allow us to measure, record and analyze.

Being able to effectively participate in one’s own care affects both a patient’s overall wellness and his overall experience.

Finally, there are the social determinants of health.

Social determinants of health (SDH) are factors that affect a person and her healthcare experience.

Discovering a patient’s social determinants requires answering questions such as: Does the patient have access to fresh fruits and vegetables?  Can the patient afford transportation?  Is the patient dealing with loneliness?  Does the patient have a social support system?  Does the patient live in a neighborhood with poor air quality?

Social determinants, in many ways are the complement, the “other side” of the clinical factors of a patient, and many studies are showing they are just as important if not more important than the genetic/clinical aspect of a person’s health.

However, social determinants are complex.  None of them are an island for the patient and all interact and relate to the others.  Education affects income, which can affect housing, which might affect food availability, which can in turn affect emotional situations.

As complex as they are, understanding even one can have a profound impact on a patient’s overall health.

At Cyder, this is our goal.

We create tools and technology that allow healthcare organizations and providers to understand the whole patient.  To understand the missing half of the patient.  The social aspects of a patient.

For us, creative technology for whole-patient care means tools that collect, measure and provide this information to healthcare providers in useful and meaningful ways.

Internally, we have a saying that we use a lot, “Treat the whole patient, not just the hole in the patient.”