Building the Bridge While Driving Over It: The Route to Population Health and Wellness
By Kristin Russel, Vice President of Marketing and Product Strategy, Transcend Insights
I recently led a focus group at the CHIME 16 Fall Forum, where I was able to hear frank perspectives regarding population health and wellness directly from Chief Information Officers (CIOs) across the healthcare industry. While the group was highly optimistic about the coming transition to value-based models of care, when the conversation turned to implementation, the room got quiet. The truth is that we were all struck by a nagging, unwelcome fact: that for the majority of healthcare systems, implementing a population health management program with the requisite abilities to pull data from a multitude of organizations in addition to analyzing that information with a predictive analytics component — has become an all but insurmountable task.
Of course, the C-suites of healthcare organizations today are under enormous pressure to implement such programs — from communities, from care teams, from the market, from other executives. But as one CIO shared with me, without a clear roadmap forward when it comes to population health we’re building the bridge as we’re driving over it.
Despite the hype (and obvious benefit) of population health and wellness, the truth is that it takes more than a crystal ball to predict the future — it takes a connected system with data that is normalized so it can be leveraged for a shared perspective of the individual patient across the health ecosystem. If healthcare systems hope to get out in front of a robust solution, they will have to approach the problem from all angles. This is to say, to build a broad foundation for success, and not merely a bridge. The highly-touted advantages of value-based care are both real and achievable; in general, health systems will have to address four elements in order to seize them.
Interoperability of Data and Technology
Population health and wellness depends on the seamless flow of information between medical stakeholders in a given community — without the thorough cleansing and normalization of patient data (including the ability for technology systems to “talk” to each other), the analysis of the data is meaningless. Continuity of Care Documents, Electronic Health Records (EHRs), claims data and other types of data must all come together in an organized, orderly marriage; a Health Information Exchange (for data) and Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources application programming interfaces (for application interfacing) generally is the easiest route forward.
Lead Both the Internal and External Stakeholders Alike
The issue of leadership tends to get less attention when discussing population health and wellness, but according to HCOE research, it is the largest barrier between health systems and effective analytics. Think about it: organizations must initiate and develop close relationships with numerous stakeholders in a medical community before even beginning to coordinate data sharing and the task of full program implementation.
Organize around a Single, Comprehensive System
Healthcare organizations today face a deluge of vendors and solutions that solve for a multitude of issues. Many organizations find themselves with a myriad of applications that are frequently disconnected from one another creating challenges when it comes to managing a connected population. To attempt to weave these individual components into a single, coherent system is to tempt chaos. It likely won’t work. Instead, consolidate your resources around a single, open platform framework that supports both native and non-native applications individually — in effect, an enterprise solution with best-in-breed, plug-and-play application functionality.
Partner with Experienced Data Experts
At the end of the day, a successful population health strategy will revolve around the data. Better, more accurate data leads to more accurate insights and thus better results. According to the Deloitte 2016 Survey of US Physicians, many physicians distrust the data they receive or find it difficult to integrate that information into their daily practices. To address these concerns, partnering with organizations or individuals that have experience in delivering real-time insights is critical to ensuring end users trust and use the data your organization is bringing forward. While information should be timely, reliable and actionable, in today’s world the data warehouse that stores that information should aggregate data from every available source.
For many organizations, the route to population health management is yet an uphill climb. But as with any project, it’s easiest to overcome heights from atop a broad, and deep, foundation.
What will it take to place your population health and wellness program on a firm path to long-term success?