IBM's Smarter Care: moving from the clinic to the community

"Work smarter" is an idea that's made the rounds through everything from industrial training programs to political campaigns for the last half-century.

And it may be the best way to sum up the thinking behind IBM's Smarter Care Initiative.

On October 20-21, attendees at the IBM Health and Social Programs Summit, to be held at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel, in Arlington, VA, will get an in-depth look at the Smarter Care initiative as conveyed through the experiences and ideas of IBM clients, as well as thought leaders and partners from around the world.

According to Farhana Alarakhiya, director of IBM's Smarter Care Business, "the focus is on care management, but not simple, clinical care management."  Rather, it involves incorporating and acting upon an expanded understanding of what impacts healthcare conditions – from environmental circumstances, to economic status, to education levels across entire populations – in order to develop "comprehensive care management" programs that reach across the traditional boundaries between social and health programs.

Calling it a "proactive" approach to healthcare, Alarakhiya described the Smarter Care way as "extending beyond the clinical context and into the community outside the hospital walls."

In practical terms, what that means – and what much of the business of the Smarter Care Initiative amounts to – is identifying specific populations in need of new approaches to care delivery, then identifying and establishing alliances with an array of new institutional partners, regardless of whether they are in the public or private sectors, or whether they have traditionally provided healthcare or social support services.

For example, one project currently in implementation, Alarakhiya said, involves a large U.S. state that has embarked upon a Medicaid reform project, the goal of which is to transform services for five million citizens across the state.  In this state, Medicaid spend accounted for more than 35% of the state budget and was on a path of 13% growth year over year. 

"The state has a multi-year action plan to achieve the Triple Aim of improve care, improve health, and reduce costs,"  Alarakhiya said. "A key component of the plan is the implementation of 'Health Homes' that are accountable for coordinating the health and social care for vulnerable Medicaid populations." 

These vulnerable clients, she added, drive a disproportionate share of the Medicaid spend, and their issues span clinical, behavioral, and social health with the social determinants of health having the greatest influence on their health status. 

"Traditional, episodic service delivery models were falling short and a new, complementary care delivery model was required."

In partnering with IBM and their Smarter Care offering, the state has begun a system-wide analysis of claims data to identify the most vulnerable population of citizens. Once identified, the IBM Smarter Care system will automate enrollment and essential service enabling processes. It will then provide a holistic understanding of clients across clinical, behavioral, and social care domains, enabling multidisciplinary teams to collaborate and optimize care plans beyond traditional episodic care delivery.

At the IBM Health and Social Programs Summit in October, Alarakhiya will be making a presentation that highlights new products IBM is adding to its Smarter Care Initiative, as well as discussing new innovations and research into efforts to enhance how vulnerable populations are identified and treated.

Finally, she will give attendees further insight into the expanding network of partners now working with IBM, and the scope of the projects to which they are committed.  

This smarter approach is how stakeholders can uncover valuable insights into lifestyle choices, social determinants, and clinical factors enabling holistic and individualized care to optimize outcomes and lower costs.

This article was originally posted on HIMSS Future Care.