Utah strives to be wise about health care

The state is working toward providing the right mix of primary care workers to suit the varying needs of communities.

What we did

Sixty percent of Americans live with at least one chronic disease, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, or diabetes. There’s a growing demand for health care that steps in earlier to help prevent and manage diseases in the first place, not only to improve people’s health, but to reduce the rising costs of care as well. These efforts involve teams of physicians, nurses, behavioral health clinicians, and others to provide primary care.

Traditionally, how many of these primary care workers there are has depended on population size. A big city, for example, has more of them than a small town. But that simple math ignores a complex reality.

Certain diseases can be more prevalent in some areas than others. Demographics also vary. Areas with many retirees have different needs than ones with younger populations. Managing diseases requires an array of health professionals, including pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and chronic–disease coaches.

Being more strategic about having the right mix of primary care professionals can mean a more efficient, more cost–effective system that can better help people.

Utah is one state working on this. The Utah Area Health Education Centers Program (Utah AHEC) and Utah Medical Education Council (UMEC) began developing a model to project how many primary care workers it would need to match the varying needs of its residents.

Utah is one state working on this. The Utah Area Health Education Centers Program (Utah AHEC) and Utah Medical Education Council (UMEC) began developing a model to project how many primary care workers it would need to match the varying needs of its residents.

The objectives are to:

  • Make sure that primary care workers are used most effectively.
  • Ensure that medical education is meeting the demands of the workplace.
  • Help health insurance companies understand the cost advantages of primary care.

To help realize their goals, Utah AHEC and UMEC approached IBM. Over three weeks, IBM helped:

  • Create a model to explore how to calculate the best–suited workforce required to meet primary care needs.
  • Simplify the inputs required to get the model working and create a framework that can use new types of data as needed.
  • Build users’ confidence in the model by allowing them to change underlying assumptions.
  • Create an architecture that linked the data, the optimization model, and the user interface.

The project tapped IBM’s expertise in data science, user experience, and principles of data transparency to help improve a tool that matches the needs of communities with the right primary care.

Initiative:

Location:

Utah, USA

Responsibility Practice:

Health