The Why, What and How of Population Health Management

I recently came across a very insightful video with Dr. Rishi Sikka, one of the foremost population health scientist, in which he spoke on the need for people to emphasize the why of population health management. Taking this one step further, Dr. Sikka’s comments inspired me to break-down the why, what and how of this important field.

The Why

People are quick to jump to the what of population health, but as Dr. Sikka puts it, focusing on the why is key in “generating action and devotion amongst those who actually deliver the care.” When people do talk about population health management, they often focus on dollar signs.

But numbers alone is not enough to get people inspired to be a part of the system. It’s true, the cost savings on total healthcare that great population health promises for consumers, businesses, and government is a reason to progress in the field. But more than just cutting back on costs, population health results in an overall better standard of health. And that’s something that people can get behind.

The What

To put it simply, population health management is largely the intersection of strategic resource allocation and health optimization. It’s a matter of using big data to figure out how best provide healthcare for everyone. In an ideal world, an organization would be able to do everything for everyone. Unfortunately, resources are limited and so until we hit the post-scarcity days of Start Trek, we need to learn how to strategically allocate what we have.

Resources could be a number of things from human resources (pharmacists, physicians, technicians, etc.) to wearable devices (phones that track stats via apps and other IoT products) and facilities (retail clinics, ambulatory clinics, etc.). In summary, population health management is about getting the most out of the resources we have with data. It’s about creating a healthier world more efficiently.

The How

The how has mang angles. One of the biggest challenges in population health management is addressing mixed model demographics. In any given population one will encounter a spectrum of demographics, and though one might think that each demographic needs to be approached differently, there may be intersections in payment and care models. In order to best optimize an integrated approach to population health management, there are some concepts to keep in mind.

  • Understand changes in the market and how they can affect their organization’s strategies
  • In developing and implementing care models, providers need to understand how their programs meet the needs of their community
  • Increase coordination and transparency with consumers (this ties back to wearable devices mentioned above).
  • Make sure that private and community partners clearly understand what role they have in the process.
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