April 26 2017 | 0 Comments | 212 reads Average Rating: 3

Drawing Upon Data to Create an Up Close and Personal Patient Picture

by David Hom in Population Health

Just as it is easy to lead a horse to water but difficult to make him drink, healthcare organizations often find that it is easy to tell patients how to take care of their health but difficult to get them to take action.

Getting to know patients better could help. Indeed, if healthcare providers knew their patients – where they live, how much money they make, what they like to do – it would be much simpler to figure out exactly how to get them to optimally engage in their care. The problem: Healthcare clinicians don’t have the time to get up close and personal with each patient. After all, the average visit with a primary care physician lasts only 15 minutes.

"Doctors have one eye on the patient, and one eye on the clock," said David Rothman, who studies the history of medicine at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, in an article that ran in USA Today.1

The situation doesn’t look as if it will get better anytime soon. Consider the following: The Association of American Medical Colleges forecasts a shortfall of between 14,900 and 35,000 primary care physicians by 2025, as well as a deficit of 37,400 to 60,300 non-primary care specialists.2 According to Bureau of Labor Statistics projections, by 2022 there will be more than 1 million job openings for RNs.3 And, in a report from Vanderbilt University, researchers predict that by 2025, the shortage will be twice the size of any nurse shortage “since the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in the mid-1960s.”4

As such, it’s doubtful that clinicians will be able to do the one-to-one counseling that might result in leading patients to “follow doctor’s orders” – especially those directives that require behavioral change such as weight loss to help with diabetes or exercise to help with hypertension.

Data analytics, however, could help healthcare providers cut to the chase. Instead of getting to know each and every patient on a very personal level, healthcare organizations can rely on data to create “personas” that provide additional insight into patient behavior. Personas are profiles that are applied to cohorts of individuals who share similar characteristics or attributes. While there may be individual differences within the group (i.e., some exhibit more or less of certain characteristics than others), their overall profile is fairly similar. To develop these profiles, healthcare organizations need to go beyond clinical and claims data and leverage a wide array of socioeconomic and behavior data to create a full picture of patients/members.

Such personas will enable providers to develop proactive care management programs for patients with specific “personas.” Read part 2 of this blog for more information on this topic.

Until then, take a look at our recently published e-book chapter on personas and their role in value-based care.

Download now: Using Actions to Create Insights That Improve Outcomes


1. Rabin, R. You're on the clock: Doctors rush patients out the door. USA Today. April 20, 2014. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/04/20/doctor-visits-time-crunch-health-care/7822161/

2. American Association of Medical Colleges. New Research Confirms Looming Physician Shortage. https://www.aamc.org/newsroom/newsreleases/458074/2016_workforce_projections_04052016.html

3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Economic News Release. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro.t08.htm

4. Buerhas, P., Auerbach, D., Staiger, D. The Recent Surge in Nurse Employment: Causes and Implications. Health Affairs, July/August 2009. http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/28/4/w657.full

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David Hom
Chief Evangelist

Dave is an internationally-recognized expert in the field of consumer engagement through programs such as Value Based Benefits and Employee Wellness.

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