Integrated care won’t work without data

Integrating care to better meet patient needs should lead to huge improvements in outcomes. Individual patients can be targeted for prevention and their needs predicted. But this approach, which could also be labelled population health management, calls for sophisticated data sets.  The English NHS is trying to implement based on spreadsheets compiled by family doctors. It should learn from Finland and the USA. Internationally, there is a massive skills vacuum that no one is filling.

NHS England is encouraging primary care doctors to get together with local pharmacies, hospitals, social services and charities to deliver integrated care. Practices are being counselled to use the data they have to hand no matter how basic. That’s a good idea. But it is likely to fail long-term unless you have robust, updatable data models. These should also measure outcomes. This would enable the doctors and their local friends to be paid based on patient outcomes on a value health model. Unless this happens the model is not sustainable.

Spreadsheets analysing incomplete data is just not good enough. Sweden, Denmark and Finland are streets ahead – indeed Finland now allows third parties access to its patient data.  In the USA, Optum and minnow, Clarify Health, can do similar segmentation based on Medicare records. Centene, another big US group, is also trying to flog its data analytic skills in the UK.

It is odd how unwilling big data companies seem to be to engage with governments internationally. Optum has a small presence in the UK and is beavering away in Brazil where its parent UnitedHealth has bought hospital chains in Brazil, Chile and other countries. But no one at Optum seems to have the ambition to do this stuff internationally. Which is weird, because these strategies are now top of mind for all healthcare policymakers globally. So where were the big data crunchers at the annual ICHOM conference, the mecca for value health nuts globally with nearly 2,000 delegates in Rotterdam last month?

We guess it is a function of a sad truth in health care – the bigger your home market, the less interested players are in moving internationally.

We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Max Hotopf or call 0207 183 3779.