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Innovation in medicine: Population Health and its challenges

Digital format, 31/03/2022, National Interest

“Population health” is a new paradigm aimed at offering each citizen appropriate and effective treatment while, at the same time, responding to the challenges posed to the healthcare system by the so-called “big killers” – such as heart disease – and the ageing of the population. Technological innovation is playing an essential role in developing this paradigm, enabling healthcare facilities and citizens to develop treatment plans that begin with health maintenance and are then capable of matching patient needs to personalized solutions in keeping with the medical paradigm of the 4 Ps: predictive, personalized, preemptory and participatory.  

Prevention is central to the development of appropriate population health models that make healthcare systems more proactive by involving medical professionals and citizens in programs aimed at maintaining optimal health before the need for treatment emerges in the form of specific pathological conditions.

The accessibility of health data – along with their quality – is an additional and highly important factor in making the new paradigm work. Thus, data produced in settings not strictly clinical must also be considered – all that “real world” data, including patient-generated data, capable of enriching the overall picture of the clinical conditions of individuals and homogeneous patient groups and at the level of the population in general. In that sense, the systematic use of large quantities of data is essential to reduce heterogeneity at population level and to permit the sustainable development of population health models capable of preventive intervention.

Not surprising therefore are recent European undertakings such as the European Health Data Space, aimed at creating an open ecosystem for sharing and exchanging data for the purpose of developing increasingly effective public health policies and personalized diagnoses and therapies. Naturally, the issue of the more intense mobilization and use of data calls for a broad-based cultural effort at recuperating appropriate levels of trust in citizens, institutions and private entities in terms of both collective awareness of the importance of data themselves as well as maintaining adequate privacy protections.

Of equal importance is the development of public/private partnerships capable of generating the necessary synergies for creating technological infrastructures and for the nationwide adoption of innovative systems and digital solutions for the collection, analysis and use of data for the purposes of prevention, diagnosis and innovative treatment.

The healthcare systems of the entire world are in a phase of great foment and evolution due to the pandemic, major chronic pathologies and demographic changes. The full involvement of citizens in participatory prevention and the intensive use of data for the development of analytic algorithms, personalized prediction and risk analysis are all urgent: only by facing these challenges can new healthcare models be made operational.  For this evolutionary step to be successful, a strong supply of digital solutions that aid in the development of the population health paradigm will be key. At the same time, the conditions must be created to meet an equally strong demand for healthcare innovation. Only with innovative models can systems foster the health of citizens so as to preclude their ever becoming patients.