By Vikas Arya
Most Americans think about healthcare as a visit to their doctor or a hospital because the healthcare system has historically been focused on addressing chronic illnesses. However, since the turn of the 21st, a greater emphasis is being placed on improving wellness and patient outcomes, preventing illness and reducing costs.
“Population Health” may seem like a new concept but it is based on decades old principles of Public Health, which is defined by CEA Winslow as "the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private communities, and individuals." A macro, industry trend of implementing integrated delivery models of value-based care aligns with many of the strategic goals of Population Health Programs which bodes well for their adoption but only with careful planning and detailed implementation.
Practically, the goals and objectives of Population Health Programs make sense but achieving them is challenging because implementation requires designing a Multi-stakeholder Community Health Model that would be used to build a Population Health Improvement Organization. There are several challenges to creating both because they require forming new partnerships between stakeholders who have not traditionally worked in an integrated fashion to improve individual and population health. These stakeholders could include: Providers, Payers, Public Health, Employers, Religious and Philanthropic organizations, Education and Government.
Developing and implementing a Population Health Improvement Organization requires significant transformation of culture, operational processes and underlying technologies. A comprehensive plan aligns individual stakeholder incentives with the broader goals of improving community health, assesses capabilities of each stakeholder as they apply to achieving those goals and implementing the tools necessary to analyze non-traditional data sets (e.g. Behavioral/Lifestyle, Social/Economic, Physical Environment, Genetics, Education). The relative maturity of each capability and associated functions are measured to inform resource allocation as part of a tactical implementation plan.
Over time, the Population Health Improvement Organization will be able to leverage analytics and lessons learned to evolve its culture, mature its operations and improve health of its community. Just as with other transformation efforts, developing a Population Health Improvement Organization is not a simple task but it's the goal of improving community health justify the effort required for planning, assessing and developing its capabilities and functions.
Want to learn more about Population Health and changes in current healthcare policies? Attend the Population Health Colloquium March 27-29 in Philadelphia where I will be hosting a 2-hour session, “The Ultimate Game Changers: How Healthcare Will Change in 2017”. Register online at http://www.populationhealthcolloquium.com/