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Population Healthier 

It’s no secret that an aging population of baby boomers and a mass exodus of retiring workers will overwhelm the healthcare field. Current figures suggest the healthcare system eats about 14 percent of the American economy’s plate. They say healthcare IT is a reactive industry–so how does a continually disruptive sector manage the trifecta of care, quality, and cost?

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The Evolution of Population Health Management

 

The popularity of PHM ceases to wane ever since its emergence some years ago, coupled with new developments across healthcare IT and increased care coordination. Population health management is the most likely purchase for healthcare providers for 2016, according to a recent peer60 report. We know that individual physicians take care of individual patients. But, a medical practice takes care of actual community populations. The idea of population health management is in one sense noble and inspirational and on the other hand, challenging and complicated.

 

Wellcentive offers a succinct description of population health management as seeking “to improve the health outcomes of a group by monitoring and identifying individual patients within that group. Typically, PHM programs use a business intelligence (BI) tool to aggregate data and provide a comprehensive clinical picture of each patient. Using that data, providers can track, and hopefully improve, clinical outcomes while lowering costs.” In other words, population health management is a complicated approach to reduce costs for healthcare delivery to a group of people with similar characteristics or needs.

 

Among those with a “population healthier” mission include industry names: AthenaHealth, McKesson, and the health unit operation at IBM. Another report from peer60 (using their enterprise data platform Reaction) says that the most likely purchases for hospitals with more than 250 beds is population health management. PHM is an open-playground market with room for many vendors because no particular vendor has really established itself as the big guy.

The Future of PHM

Will this change for 2016? After the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) this young but burgeoning field continues to gain a lot of ground. Considering the financial incentives or financial penalties at stake for ACA compliance, population health management leads to all sorts of outcomes. But, ultimately, PHM means the double-whammy of reduced costs and improved care: fewer hospital visits, integrated care delivery, push towards preventative care, empowered patient engagement, and consolidated comprehensive teams of care providers.

 

More and more providers are now launching PHM programs and efforts to achieve the right balance to care, quality, and cost. As companies make deep commitments to “population healthier,” it grows their bottom line. Keeping patients healthier, while reducing expenses, will likely never get old.

 

 

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