You’ve heard the phrase “prevention is better than the cure”. It’s generally attributed to the Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus in around 1500. So it’s not exactly a radical new concept. The principle of “prevention over cure” underscores the importance of proactive healthcare measures to prevent illnesses and conditions before they occur or worsen.

It is a shift away from a reactive approach that primarily focuses on treating diseases and managing symptoms after they have manifested. A shift that is becoming more and more recognised by leading healthcare providers as the key to solving some of the world’s most pressing health challenges.

Whilst great progress has been made in helping people to live longer lives, there are significant ramifications. We’ve all heard stories, anecdotally or through research. A 36-year-old man suffered a sudden heart attack, though he had shown no prior symptoms. Following further tests, he had undiagnosed high blood pressure and cholesterol. He now needed bypass surgery. Would an annual physical have caught this earlier and made sure he got the right treatment?

As the United States population ages, the adult population with chronic diseases is expected to increase. It’s estimated that by 2050, the majority of the adult population 50 years and older, across all races, will have at least one chronic disease, with the majority between the ages of 60 to 79 years.

Many people are living years in poor health, with inequality across societal and geographical boundaries. This is where preventative care comes into play. Ill health does not have to be inevitable.

Investing in preventative care helps secure health and social care services, as well as boost the economy.

Key elements of preventative care

Preventive services: Healthcare providers emphasise preventive services such as vaccinations, screenings, and regular check-ups to detect and address health issues at an early stage.

Lifestyle modifications: Encouraging patients to adopt healthier lifestyles through diet, exercise, and stress management helps reduce the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Health education: Patient education is crucial in empowering individuals to make informed choices about their health. It involves providing information on risk factors, healthy behaviors, and the benefits of preventive measures.

Behavioural health integration: Recognising the connection between mental and physical health, healthcare systems integrate behavioural health services to address mental health conditions and substance abuse, which can contribute to chronic illnesses.

Community health initiatives: Collaborative efforts extend beyond clinical settings to address social determinants of health, such as access to nutritious food, safe housing, and education. These initiatives aim to improve overall community well-being.

The expanding care continuum

The traditional care continuum typically depicts a linear progression from illness to treatment and recovery. However, the evolved care continuum takes a more holistic and patient-centred approach. It can be viewed as a cyclical journey, with people moving through it at different stages across different care outcomes.

Everyone is a part of this revised care continuum: providers just don’t know who participants are at the early stages as they’re currently healthy or undiagnosed – aka anonymous. But these people are worth engaging with preventative cure messaging, saving lives and potentially costs.

As it stands, only 8% of Americans 35 and older received all of the preventative clinical services recommended for them, including screenings, counseling, preventive medications and vaccinations. Research suggests that almost 40% of deaths in the United States could be averted through better primary prevention, such as by decreasing tobacco use.

Innovative healthcare organisations are now focusing more investment into the right-hand side of the continuum, into awareness, healthy living, and education before a person becomes a patient.

Research suggests the more a provider understands about the individual, the better the care they can provide. There are all kinds of ways to engage and interact with consumers in the right-hand side of the continuum. For example, depending on your line of primary care, you might share targeted, educational content around healthy living around better diet, exercise, hereditary diseases etc. to raise awareness.

When an individual might develop a condition that requires treatment and care, and they transition into that part of the continuum where they’re now being exposed from the provider point of view, the provider has much better data from which to treat the patient with.

Engaging consumers earlier in the continuum enables providers to have more direct digital interactions, acquire additional data, and improve individual health and wellness.

This enables healthcare organisations to grow their market share, there’s consumer appetite to engage and learn as well as preventative care is backed by science to be beneficial for all stakeholders.

What does the modern care continuum look like?

Preventive care: At the beginning of the evolved care continuum, there is a strong emphasis on preventive care and wellness promotion. Providers engage patients in proactive health management, offering screenings, vaccinations, and lifestyle counseling.

Early intervention: If health issues are identified, early intervention becomes a crucial step. Timely and targeted interventions can prevent the progression of conditions and reduce the need for aggressive treatments.

Chronic care management: For individuals with chronic conditions, the continuum extends to comprehensive chronic care management. This involves ongoing monitoring, patient education, and personalised care plans to optimise quality of life.

Advanced care and coordination: Patients with complex or advanced conditions may require specialised care, such as palliative care or hospice. The evolved continuum ensures seamless coordination among various providers, including specialists and support services.

Patient empowerment: Throughout the continuum, patients are actively engaged in decision-making and care planning. Shared decision-making tools, patient portals, and health apps empower individuals to take control of their health.

Health Information Exchange: Technology facilitates the sharing of patient information across care settings, enhancing coordination and reducing duplication of tests and treatments.

Outcome measurement: Continuous assessment of patient outcomes and satisfaction is integral. Healthcare organisations use data analytics to evaluate the effectiveness of care and make improvements.

Community and population health: Beyond individual care, the continuum extends to community and population health management. Healthcare systems collaborate with communities to address broader health disparities and social determinants of health.

The evolved care continuum embodies a patient-centric and holistic approach that aligns with the “prevention over cure” philosophy. It recognises that healthcare is not a one-size-fits-all model and that interventions should be tailored to individual needs and preferences.

By embracing prevention, early intervention, and patient empowerment, the evolved care continuum aims to improve health outcomes, enhance patient experiences, and reduce healthcare costs in the long run. It’s a paradigm shift that places health promotion and wellness at the forefront of healthcare delivery.

At every stage of the care continuum, there is a crucial exchange of data between the consumer and the provider. Whether it’s anonymous, via cookies or IP addresses, through to personally identifiable information (PII) and on to protected health information (PHI).

With great data comes great responsibility. Healthcare organisations bear a considerable burden to safeguard sensitive patient data. It’s fundamental to building trust. Consumers look to their providers to manage their most personal data carefully, when so much is at risk should it fall into the wrong hands.

For healthcare organisations to successfully navigate the evolved care continuum, they need to invest in technology that enables them to compliantly gather and manage data across every touchpoint. Consent isn’t a revolutionary concept: organisations have been handling consent throughout patient treatment for decades in line with HIPAA and other relevant legislation, often via custom-built consent management solutions or using third-party vendors like EPIC.

The new challenges come as organisations look to expand their service offering beyond patients: into the new realm of awareness and education. Providers are extending their patient portals with digital products designed for mobility, interoperability, and 24/7 connectivity.

With such expansion comes new challenges for consent. Whilst many of these systems may collect consent individually, are they capable of then honouring it across every other platform in the ecosystem?

Software like EHRs capture some consents and preferences they were never designed (or intended) to maintain all the consents and preferences individuals encounter throughout the continuum – for example, marketing automation platforms are separate entities entirely that don’t connect consent data.

So, healthcare organisations are now faced with disconnected consent. Different departments work with different systems, all collecting different user data. This not only risks non-compliance and regulatory fines with limited auditability, but also seriously risks causing fragmented patient experiences.

The solution to disconnected consent?

Healthcare organisations need a consent management platform that can centralise consent data. Cassie has been built to manage consent across the entire patient journey. It can solve the data usage, privacy permissions, restrictions and preferences across the entire care continuum, from anonymous through to known identities to patients and to advocates.

  • Capture anonymous data to drive awareness around preventative care and healthy living
  • Collect customer preferences to send relevant, personalised communications on their terms
  • Connect consent across the organisation, third-party platforms and channels
  • Create a single source of truth
  • Compliance by default