Population Health Sciences Colloquium
September 26, 2013

At the Population Health colloquium (see agenda here) held at Stanford University, speakers from around the world engaged on a serious question that many traditional clinicians haven’t really thought about: taking care of the health of a population.

This event was sponsored by the Stanford Population Health Initiatives with the aim to draw collaborators from different disciplines to help design and implement learning health care systems for the future of whole populations of patients. The aim is to continually improve the quality and efficiency of care by rapidly translating evidence from scientific research and patient outcomes into clinical practice.

As an audience member I couldn’t help but reflect upon my own clinical work as a stroke neurologist. Sure, I see patients in my clinic and counsel them individually on how to best manage their cholesterol and hypertension. Yes, I see patients when they present with acute stroke symptoms. But ask me how my panel of 500 patients is doing with their hemoglobin A1c or weight loss program and I would freeze. I have no idea how my population of patients are doing, and in fact, even asking that question seems preposterous. I can’t imagine how I would go about querying my panels’ data. I imagine the electronic health record programmers are not particularly interested in writing scripts for that query unless this was an initiative led by quality and performance improvement.

Of course, we all know this is where the future of healthcare is going:
Meaningful Use 3  is not too far away and we as clinicians must think long and hard about how to best care for not only the patient sitting across from you in the exam room, but also the whole population of patients. 

One way we’re expanding our work for stroke care is to focus on not only individually managing the patients who present with stroke symptoms in the hospital, but how to best care for a population of such patients who has already suffered from a stroke and need optimization of their secondary stroke prevention risk factors, as well as targeting patients with a bevy of different vascular comorbidities predispose them to an even higher risk of stroke. We’re working on proactively engaging patients to manage their own health.  Learn more about our program at the Clinical Excellence Research Center.

– Waimei Tai, MD