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Digitizing health care through population health management

John Glaser, PhD

Senior vice president, population health


Many industries over the past several decades have experienced the digitization of processes and content – music, banking, retail – today, health care is in the midst of this evolution. Reactive, volume-oriented care is transitioning to proactive, efficient and high quality management of health. Proven strategies of the past will no longer suffice to improve or even maintain the current performance of a health organization given extraordinary changes in government and private sector approaches to paying for care. As the health care industry experiences shifts across the globe, one thing is for certain – significant change is coming. I believe those organizations that prepare for and embrace these changes today, will be positioned for success in the future.

The implementation of the electronic health record has been an essential step forward in freeing health care information from the confines of a handwritten paper chart, yet we still have a journey ahead of us. Population health management has been a common buzzword in the industry as the answer to how we solve for our problems of relentless increases in care costs with less than acceptable improvements in quality. Behind the buzzword is substance. However, what does population health management mean, and how do we begin to lay down a foundational plan?

I believe there are five key considerations when developing a strategy for population health management:

  1. Visibility to a person's holistic health and care experiences that spans the continuum

    Organizations need to think comprehensively and meaningfully when it comes to data. Health care stakeholders can make more informed decisions if they are able to assemble and react to a comprehensive health profile that reflects a person’s health and care experiences across time and care settings.

  2. Strategic, analytic discovery processes to identify and monitor opportunities

    From uncovering trends in care, public health and lifestyle factors that may positively or negatively affect operational, financial or clinical outcomes for a person, to care teams being pushed actionable insights that proactively identify potential care and health problems – analytics is key to performance improvement.

  3. Mass personalization of health and care management

    Each person is unique. We need to treat them as such to drive optimal outcomes, while maintaining a scalable approach for entire populations. Diabetics are not all the same, any more so than all teenagers being the same.

  4. A community-wide care team that is connected, informed and engaged

    The old saying of, “It takes a village to raise a child,” applies to managing a person’s health. Population health management requires a team effort. Care team members from various venues (including the person and their family), together, must work off a single source of truth and a single health plan to holistically manage a person’s health and care.

  5. Leadership buy-in and openness to change

    Population health management requires a comprehensive organizational approach and an aligned team to drive vision and excitement across an organization – the more leaders you have onboard, the more positive change you will achieve.

As an end note, population health management is a journey that will be unique to each organization depending on where they are, the resources they have available and what they want to achieve. Technology alone will not be the answer. Technology, people and resources, combined, create a solid framework to move beyond reactive care and support proactive management of health. I believe organizations that consider a comprehensive approach to population health management will lead the digitization for tomorrow’s health care environment and provide the best care possible to the community they serve.

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