Written by David Maisel

The term “clinical” implies anything associated with a clinical setting, which in turn involves practices similar to those used within health care facilities, including medical services. Due to advances in clinical medicine, medical services are often preventative in nature.

Defining Clinical Preventative Services

A preventative service is essentially a risk mitigation strategy deployed in the form of a service to a beneficiary, and can be tailored to clinical settings as much as it can towards other fields. This is what we imply when we speak of Clinical Preventative Services. One major branch of the Federal government which specializes in prevention is the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF). This organization is mainly comprised of primary care experts who review evidence and provide recommendations for Clinical Preventative Services. It can be said that this panel of experts practice what is known as evidence based medicine.

Evidence based medicine has evolved as a concept over several years. Traditional medicine practiced by healthcare professionals involves doing independent research and citing scientific periodicals or other sources of empirical evidence, in order to support or oppose the quality of medicine. Evidence based practice follows the same pattern, however it further scrutinizes the strength of the methodology by which the evidence was collected. Certain methodologies are considered stronger than others and are considered thereby to yield stronger evidence for medicinal quality. There may also be guidelines for criticizing the structural aspects of different forms of analysis to evaluate the efficacy of studies on a case by case basis, so that only those that meet the selection criteria are used. Evidence based practice may be considered an attempt to standardize differing practices, and generate a common consensus amongst independent researchers about the current state of medicine.

The USPSTF holds rating standards that not only rank the efficacy of evidence, but the benefits of recommendations to clinical organizations. Standards such as these help to ensure that only the right tools and practices which work to provide the most cost effective benefit are used in a clinical setting.

Challenges you can Help Prevent

Creating the picture of a society which actively prevents clinical illnesses requires that we follow best practices and avoid past pitfalls. Careful consideration of both will present immediate benefits to the cost, efficiency and quality of healthcare.

One major best practice is to follow established guidelines for diagnosing and treating individuals for numerous ailments. Guidelines such as the “Guide to Clinical Services” put forth by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) provide recommendations of what are considered to be the best screening procedures and medicines to administer for different at-risk populations. This is based on gender, age and special circumstances to prevent ailments. It provides detailed information, including risk assessments; screening tests and the recommended frequency that these tests should be given. It even describes the procedure and outcomes of the best interventions to use when treating the ailment, based on benefit ratings compared to specific at-risk populations. Referencing these guidelines will deliver valuable information, developed through years of experience, to the hands of healthcare professionals.

One major pitfall occurs when organizations fail to encourage patients to participate in their own care or in the decision making process between them and their clinician. Nearly all treatments in preventative care require at the least, a slight behavioral change in patients, such as remembering to take a certain medication at a specified time and frequency. Therefore, while preventative services might be of excellent quality, they suffer limited effectiveness when faced with low patient engagement. Healthcare providers should recognize the participatory nature of healthcare, and make it a priority to inspire patient engagement in conjunction with their services.