Population Health Management on the Rise

image: freedigitalphotos.net/StuartMiles
image: freedigitalphotos.net/StuartMiles

Population Health Management (PHM) is a relatively new idea in the medical community. While the idea of cataloging patients into larger and larger data pools, increasing the amount of time and energy practices and hospitals put into searching for and implementing data collecting software and solutions might make the patient seem farther and farther away from personalized care. However, in reality PHM shortens the distance between that personalized experience and the very best individual care in a very real way.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used to create them.” Albert Einstein

The best way to improve any outcome is to build on the experience of past approaches. PHM is no different. The most actionable way to provide a positive health outcome for one patient is to apply aggregated data culled from carefully rendered comprehensive clinical portraits of a defined group (or population) of previous patients. These portraits combine not only clinical but also financial and operational data. These disparate elements leverage data to improve clinical outcomes so effectively that cost across the board is reduced making healthcare that much more accessible to everyone.

The objective of all healthcare is simple: Keep people healthy. The way this is done is to pay very close attention to them and the coordination of their care. That may sound painstaking obvious, but with the technology we now have access to, EMRs (Electronic Medical Records), for example, it makes it that much more feasible for a large population. The intention of Population Health Management is to keep any given population as healthy as possible by minimizing the need for excessive testing, imaging, admittance or emergency visits based on what we already know. Or, put another way, by building on our collective experience.

image: freeditigalphotos.net/watcharakun
image: freeditigalphotos.net/watcharakun

Population Health Management obviously improves the care of a population with chronic disease by using IT solutions to track and manage their care but the goal is also to keep the healthy demographic of the population well, healthy. PMH focuses only partly on the high-risk or chronic part of the population who do generate the most cost, it also addresses the preventative care needs of every patient in a systematic way.

As we all know health risks and diseases change over time so the objective to modify factors which make or keep people sick is the goal of population health management – which is why it doesn’t only apply to those who already have compromised health.

While the importance of lowering costs cannot be understated, the other benefits of minimizing excessive tests or procedures are things like enhancing patient experience and improving outcomes. A lower price tag is simply the result of better organization and Population Health Management is ultimately the idea of being thoroughly organized. It shouldn’t take years to organize the data we already have, either. It is now possible to house and sort data in such a way that we can begin reaping benefits quickly. A successful PHM program should be able to give as close to real-time insights as possible, keeping the flow of information moving while new data is being collected.

When an individual is in need of testing, procedures or treatment, nothing should be held back. However, many healthcare providers do not communicate outside of their own walls, and as such, patients are subjected to multiple repeated events that are both unnecessary and costly. Becoming organized doesn’t mean the withholding of crucial examinations, but provides a more streamlined path to recovery.

image: flickr.com/photos/shawncampbell
image: flickr.com/photos/shawncampbell

This translates to better outcomes not only for the patient, but for the physician as well, because these professionals are not bogged down with repetitive diagnoses, and thus can treat more patients. A working relationship that depends on a lot of give and take from both patient and professional shouldn’t be treated lightly. The information that comes from patient populations will help a doctor to disseminate the quickest and best approach, and the patient isn’t put through excessive routines and has a higher potential for a better outcome.

Population Health Management isn’t set up just for the professionals to understand their community of patients better, but to also avoid negative experiences felt by the patients. Everyone is better served in the short- and long-term views within their population.