To see improvements in healthcare at the population level we need to expand the ways we think about our sector to include principles that are appropriate to modeling and understanding ecological systems. Systems engineering can assist in the design and improvement of significant social-scale systems, but the benefits to be achieved are dependent upon a proper understanding of the principles that apply to defining these critical and large, social-scale systems. An ecological systems view of population health allows the core issue of trying to manage health across a population of patients who are not under the direct control or management of any central healthcare institution to be brought to the foreground of analysis. Ecosystems thinking will enable a better understanding of the core purposes and value elements of our healthcare system and a more unified and cohesive vision for the healthcare system of the future--both for individual patients and entire patient populations.
Define requirements for ecological systems modeling of healthcare
Categorize ecosystem elements across societal and organismic system layers
Differentiate patients as system inputs from populations as integral ecosystem components
Contrast traditional system-of-system versus ecological system strengths and weaknesses
Propose ecological system management as primary paradigm for population health