ASAIPA CEO Henru Kruger

The recent call by the World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA) to link family medicine with universal health care coverage (UHC) could well add a new dimension to the community approach to healthcare as South Africa moves towards UHC, Henru Kruger, Alliance of SA Independent Practitioners Associations (ASAIPA) CEO, suggested in his talk to GP Expo delegates in Midrand last week.

In its call, WONCA went on to stress: “We therefore need Government and every stakeholder’s assistance with the integration of public health with primary care and to promote public health policies across all sectors, in order to promote collaboration between family doctors, communities, government, private sector and academic institutions.”

“When we think of communities,” Kruger pointed out, “we think of groups or maybe geographical areas. However the internet and mobile technology have created new communities which include mobile, online, virtual, digital and social media networks.”

These developments, he went on – using a recent Deloitte report as reference – have paved the way for what have become known as smart health communities (SHCs) in other parts of the world: “A smart health community is an entity that operates largely outside of the traditional health care system and encourages disease prevention and overall well-being in a geographic or virtual community setting.

“The basics of SHCs,” he continued, “have been around for many years but have evolved because of technological advances and a greater understanding of health behaviour change derived from the behavioural sciences.”

SHCs were expected to become bigger and more advanced as the 4th Industrial Revolution connected more and more people importantly facilitating the capture of more and more data from the community and the many devices being used. Putting this into context, Kruger alluded to the reporting of outcomes data by providers becoming more of a reality thereby opening greater opportunities for value-based care.

Taking this further, he explained that SHCs would conduct evidence-based research, focus more on promotion, prevention and behaviour change, “by creating groups based on common health risks and profiles in order to coach and coordinate patient specific health care: “What we will see, therefore, is practitioners practicing integrative health care and prescribing digital wellness programmes, while health funders and employers support and provide benefits for such programmes.

“Data could be hosted in the cloud with access to all role players.”

Concluding, Kruger noted that SHCs would enable communities and individuals to invest in their own health and well-being “to not only be absent of disease, but to reach full physical health and mental completeness”.