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Population Health: What the HIT Industry Needs to Consider

Published on 4/12/2017

At its core, population health is about improving outcomes for communities by improving outcomes for the individual. Health care is fundamentally shifting from managing encounters and venues to people across networks, and providers need solutions to know, manage and engage with their populations. As health IT (HIT) leaders, we must deliver the necessary solutions and services that empower our clients to identify, engage and maintain lifetime relationships at scale with the consumers they serve.

If that sounds like a tall order, it is. But the reality is the next generation requires more than great solutions and technology — those things are already expected. The future of HIT relies on helping our clients develop a personal connection with their consumers through an enabling, sticky experience that lets them become the organization of choice — their trusted partner in their health and wellness journey.

Population health management and consumer behavior patterns

The health care industry is undergoing a significant shift in consumer behavior patterns, which directly impacts consumer engagement. We've already seen the influence of mobile technology and apps on other industries. Ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft have shifted the landscape of the transportation industry; consumers now have the option of placing a Starbucks order on their phone and picking it up rather than waiting in line. With these examples in mind, it comes as no surprise that consumers are looking for additional points of contact with their health care providers and easier access to their health information.

The health care industry may be late to the party in terms of developing solutions that cater to the consumer in this way, but the trend is undeniable — and so is the need for HIT to adapt to it. Likewise, the link between these consumer behavior patterns and population health strategies cannot be refuted: If our goal is to improve the health of a population, we must design solutions that appeal to behavioral trends of that population.

Coupled with the shift to value-centered health care, provider organizations are now focused on executing large-scale personal health engagement strategies to capture, retain and better engage segmented populations of health care consumers. Organizations are building ever-growing consumer networks and appealing to them through competitive and integrated service offerings.

Innovating for population health and consumer engagement

Consumers are showing us that they want a unified, personalized, mobile-optimized health care experience, and health providers should build that sentiment into their consumer engagement strategy. Health care organizations may remain at the forefront of consumer strategies for personal health engagement by enabling the following:

Personal, dynamic user experiences

User experience (UX) is quickly becoming a leading trend in HIT solutions. Future solutions should use inputs from multiple data sources and intelligence to dynamically prioritize and render digital content in a hierarchical fashion for an experience tailored to a specific user.

Customized look/feel for online client experiences

Allying with the UX trend, future solutions should provide flexibility in how clients present their digital experience, down to specific layouts and click-by-click user experiences throughout the application.

Client self-development of apps

As the supplier-client relationship evolves, HIT providers should be particularly conscious of client-developed apps. These should be interoperable with our solutions, encouraging client innovation and furthering the value of what we are providing.

Retention of existing client relationships with external vendors

Clinically integrated networks typically have a large degree of IT or solution variance, so bringing together provider networks means integrating a disparate number of provider solutions. The emphasis on patient engagement further emphasizes the need for HIT solutions to be designed with interoperability in mind. Third-party apps must be interoperable with a solution's main framework, allowing for quick adoption. Clients should have the ability to leverage the existing system and room for flexibility in pursuing niche features outside of the solution.

At Cerner, all of these strategies are integrated into our HealtheLife framework. HealtheLife is a comprehensive web-based service made up of engagement tools that go beyond the patient portal. The goal of HealtheLife is to allow health care organizations to engage with an individual at any stage of their health and care journey.

By reaching the consumer where they're at, we can educate them and influence their decisions regarding their health and care. As leaders in the health IT industry, we have the ability to empower and support consumers in their health and care — and that is the essence of population health management.

Our programmable, comprehensive suite of solutions and services leverages a population health management strategy designed to help organizations to manage outcomes to improve health and care. Learn more about our population health management offerings.