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Personalized Medicine: The Process

March 31, 2009
by Dale Sanders
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Who are the patients visiting us the most often and should we treat them differently?

I have this theory that we (healthcare) could learn from retail in terms of customer relationship management, in a variety of ways. For example, in retail, almost every store has a “Top Customers” report that lists their top customers over the past year, month, and week. They calculate “top” by total purchases and by the number of customer visits to the store or web site. In theory, retail companies treat these “Top Customers” differently, either through targeted marketing or in some cases, “red carpet” treatment and gratis benefits. I sense that the leaders in the hospitality industry engage in this type of personalized process behavior, too.

We could easily produce a report in most ambulatory healthcare settings which lists our “Top Patients.” It’s not exactly the best name for the report, but it gives us insight to the same concept as retail, i.e., Who are the patients visiting us the most often? Which patients are spending the most money on their healthcare? My theory is, these are our sickest patients and potentially the most financially challenged. Their families feel a heavy burden, too. We should keep a close eye on these patients… treat them differently… be more aware of their appointments and encounters… make life easier for them in terms of their encounters… maybe offer preferred scheduling and parking… maybe proactively reach out to them and their families to manage their experience better… process their claims differently…work with their employers and insurance companies more closely… and proactively target them for financial assistance if needed. Of course, I’m not so sure it would be a good idea to tell these patients that, “Congratulations! You are one of our Top 50 Patients!” The awareness on our part should be subtle and in the background, but patient treatment in the foreground should be noticeably different and more personalized.

I’m not exactly sure what this looks like operationally, but I do think that we should be more aware of and adaptive to these patients and their families, and do something different with their treatment and experience. There might be opportunities for research, too, assuming that these patients represent a significantly different, outlying health experience than other patients.
It’s a step towards Personalized Medicine, but from a process perspective, not from a genomics perspective.

Maybe some organizations are already doing this?

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