Care Plans: History, Landscape, and Future

A three-part series to inform, assess, and provoke


It is how most patients feel at one point or another as they leave that sterile-smelling, fluorescent-lit doctor’s office. They have just spent 10–25 minutes being hastily examined, diagnosed, and, if they are lucky, educated about how to address their medical problem. They either leave the office empty-handed, or they walk out holding a generic pamphlet, which will likely end up under an unmanageable pile of papers or in the trash. Unless there was a major change in their treatment plan, many patients go home, forget what the doctor ordered, and continue on their usual journey of whatever harmful behaviors landed them at the doctor’s office in the first place. And without a clear, tangible plan for how to better their health, how are they supposed to behave any differently?

There is a loose, under-utilized semblance of a “plan of care” in most health data sets. You will find them mentioned in the standard Continuity of Care Document (CCD), the FHIR framework, and CMS’s recent chronic care management code documentation. Yet, somehow no one really knows what you are talking about when you say the words “care” and “plan” together in a sentence. So, designers, engineers, and field experts collaborated to understand available research and application of care plans, and visualize these findings in this 3-part feature series.

The first feature examines how the concept of a care plan came to be and our understanding of it today.

The second feature visualizes the current care planning process and limitations, and evaluates existing care plan-related services.

The third feature explores what these findings mean for the future of care plans and our shifting healthcare system, and proposes a call to action.

The series has three goals.

  1. To spread both awareness to the general public about the benefit of care planning, as well as empowerment to demand such practices from doctors
  2. To inspire healthcare designers, entrepreneurs, and providers to prioritize care plans in their innovative products and practices
  3. To encourage health policymakers to both establish a care plan database, and examine the cost of incorporating care planning into standard practice

Only in a new era of digital, standardized, adaptive care plans can we truly promote preventative self care.

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