Recent trends toward managed health care have generated interest in developing strategies to manage the health care of a population as a whole. Population-based medicine places the individual patient within the context of the larger community, which is composed of both sick and well individuals; when viewed in these terms, only a small proportion of the people who consult a primary care physician are at risk for substantial morbidity. However, the physician serves as the central figure for delivering population-based health care to the entire community. Many strategies for population-based care contain the following 4 basic elements: 1. Identifying the health and disease states that are likely to be responsive to population-based care, 2. Applying principles of epidemiology to define the population-of-interest, 3. Assembling a multidisciplinary team, and 4. Building information systems to support ongoing surveillance of population-based care. To date, most of the published examples of population-based management have been conducted in managed care environments, but population-based management may also be used by a single physician practice or a small group practice. Programs aimed at health promotion or disease prevention are among the easiest to implement. By examining the results of an entire population with a given condition, physicians and their teams may begin to identify ways to improve the overall delivery of care, either by establishing new procedures or improving old ones.
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