HCP – Health Counsel Provider or Health Care Provider?

This was a question that Sunil Chiplunkar asked in one of his posts http://pharmaceuticalshealthcare.blogspot.com/2007/05/novel-concept-hcp.html

There is widespread acknowledgement that our healthcare system needs radical transformation because most patients in India are at risk of receiving poor health care, more so in semi-urban and rural areas. In the urban areas, healthcare is increasingly more expensive and less accessible. There is a “knowledge void”-the healthcare community is drowning in oceans of information, yet doesn’t know the best ways to prevent health problems and treat them cost-effectively. In such a scenario what can the pharmaceutical industry do to drive continuous improvements in care safety, quality and efficiency, which would enable people to remain healthy longer, manage chronic conditions more effectively, and receive the best possible healthcare delivered in the safest and most economical way?

My guess would be focus on the creation, use and evolution of valid health knowledge. Why? Because the quality of care would improve dramatically and costs would drop precipitously if everyone knew the best ways to prevent illness, to avoid complications of chronic diseases, and to treat health problems in the most effective and efficient manner. This knowledge must be used to promote wellness, self-management, and recovery. Creation of knowledge must be a participative effort with different stakeholders involved in evolving this knowledge to make it ever-more useful and effective.

So, what would it take to foster widespread knowledge creation, use and evolution in our healthcare system? Well, since knowledge emerges from information, it is essential that both consumers/patients and providers have access to useful health information, including patient health data, care outcomes, and evidence-based guidelines. Furthermore, the information must be presented in a way tailored to each person’s needs and be made available whenever it’s needed. Unfortunately, this is much easier said than done for many reasons. One daunting core problem involves exchanging patient data between disparate hospital systems. After all, knowledge can’t grow and care can’t improve unless patients share their health information with their providers, providers share patient information with each other, and researchers have access to this information to develop evidence-based guidelines. And this must be done in a convenient and secure manner that protects patient privacy.

Aren’t there any easy, inexpensive ways to do it? Let’s examine this. One way to reduce health information exchange costs, and optimize how knowledge is created and used, is by developing and using standards. When it comes to health information exchange and knowledge growth, at least two types of standards come into play: data and technology standards. These standards describe how health data are categorized and defined, how health outcomes and healthcare performance are measured, how healthcare knowledge is used, and how different software systems communicate with each other when exchanging data. In a typical Indian setting it is tough to imagine that a physician/clinician will actually take time out to not only counsel his patient (address the knowledge void) but also to systematically capture information according to the defined standards. I am not for one moment suggesting that this does not happen. I personally know physicians who do this regularly. However, in the vast and populous country that India is, these good clinicians are few and far between. Into this chasm steps the Health Counsel Provider. Will this concept emerge? Will it work? Only time will tell!

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