In a recent article by Fred Bazzoli in Health Data Management, “Care delivery—and particularly, bringing health to populations—requires a combination of technology and new thinking that the industry is only beginning to grasp. The good news with reform and emerging reimbursement mechanisms is that it enables the country to take a wider, potentially more humane look at what effective healthcare will look like in the future.”[i]
As an RN, I care for many patients of different social backgrounds. Their customs and mores are significant aspects in their ability to adapt and utilize healthcare services. I recall a patient who was estranged from his family. I noticed the solemn look on his face, his quiet and defeated persona. I sat down beside his bed and spoke with him about how he was feeling, were his medications working, etc. As he began to speak, he asked if I was a spy. He was concerned that I asked “so many questions.” Of course, the answer was a polite no. The next time I entered his room, he explained that he was estranged from his family and shared the sorrow he felt and his lack of desire to become healthier and the outlook for the future. We spoke a short while, and I left to care for other patients. Three days later as I arrived for my shift, I saw him walking down the hall with his IV pole calling out to me with a huge smile on his face. He had reached out to one of his family members, and they came to visit him in the hospital. He was feeling much better, and his condition had improved.
Population health not only includes the medical interventions necessary for improved health, but it includes the social norms of individual people. As a group, certainly no distinctions are absolute, so when one is open to listening, open to alternative options, and communication without judgment, the effect care has on one individual, or groups of people with similar social norms can be useful when providing care.
Healthcare provides medical care to patients generally without consideration of their cultural and social norms and habits. New thinking that Fred alluded to in his article is at the foundation of Population Health – an approach that reflects new ideas about the definition of Health. Health, he writes, “is more than the absence of disease, it includes the complete state of physical, mental and social well-being.[ii]” We should not be content with "disease care", we should strive for "quality population health care" and be open to its challenges and learning opportunities.
[i] Bazzoli, Fred. "With the foundation built, population health is the next frontier." Health Data Management. SourceMedia, 21 Feb. 2017. Web. 23 Feb. 2017. https://www.healthdatamanagement.com/opinion/with-the-foundation-built-population-health-is-the-next-frontier?.
[ii] Government of Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada. "What is the Population Health Approach? - Population Health." What is the Population Health Approach? - Population Health. Public Health Agency of Canada, 07 Feb. 2012. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.