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Health Systems, Hospitals Getting Serious About Telemedicine

Posted on December 8, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

In the spring of last year, I wrote up a story about hospitals and health systems and their growing interest in telemedicine. The story included data from a survey on hospitals and telemedicine, which found that health systems averaged 5.51 telemedicine service lines at the time, up almost 20% from 2015.

Given these stats, I was not surprised to see a new press release from Teladoc reporting that the company now supports more than 200 hospitals, a number which represents a 100% growth in such relationships during this year.

If you’re wondering why this has happened, you’ll get more or less the same answer from last year’s study and Teladoc’s news release. In short, it’s all about the outcomes, baby.

When I wrote the story last year, one of the things that stood out for me was that 96% of respondents had said they were planning to roll up telemedicine services because they felt it would improve patient outcomes. While that made sense to me at the time, it seemed more like an aspiration rather than a practical plan.

What made the survey data even more provocative is that “improving financial returns” turned out to be a very low priority for hospitals working on telemedicine programs. At the time, this focus on outcomes rather than direct financial returns surprised me.

Now, about 18 months later, I’m doing the facepalm thing and saying “of course, hospitals want affordable, flexible care delivery options — they’re a great tool for managing population health!” It’s a no-brainer, actually, but I guess my brain wasn’t working at the time.

Now, as far as I know, the assumption that telemedicine can help with PHM and value-based delivery generally has not been rigorously tested. Also, even if the assumption is correct, hospitals are likely to struggle with deploying telemedicine for a while until they develop the most efficient workflows for using it.

Also, while it’s all well and good to say that focusing on outcomes will create ROI as a secondary effect, for some hospitals it will be pretty rough to carry telemedicine infrastructure and staffing costs upfront for a while. After all, if they want to make an impact with telemedicine, they have to make a serious commitment; I’m guessing that most of us would agree that a scattershot approach would get most hospitals nowhere.

Ultimately, though, I think hospitals have it right. Telemedicine is likely to offer health systems and hospitals some amazing options for extending service lines, managing populations more effectively, and yes, improving outcomes.

Amazon May Soon Announce Major Cloud Deal With Cerner

Posted on November 27, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

As I’ve previously noted, Amazon is making increasingly aggressive moves into the healthcare space of late. While it hasn’t been terribly public with its plans—and why should it, honestly?— there been some talk of its going into the healthcare technology space. There’s also much talk about angles from which Amazon could attack healthcare sectors, including its well-publicized interest in the pharmacy business.

Though interesting, all of this has been vaguely defined it best. However, a new deal may be in the works which could have a very concrete effect. It could change not only the future of Amazon’s healthcare industry efforts but also, potentially, have an impact on the entire health IT world.

Think I’m exaggerating? Check this out. According to a story on the CNBC site, Amazon is about to announce a “huge” deal with Cerner under which the two will work together on building a major presence in enterprise health IT for Amazon Web Services. Put that way, this sounds a bit hyperbolic, but let me lay this out a bit further.

As things stand, the online retailer’s Amazon Web Services is already generating almost $20 billion a year, boasting clients across major industries such as technology, energy and financial services. Its only stumbling point to date is that it’s had trouble cracking the healthcare market.

Apparently, at the re:Invent conference in Las Vegas next week, AWS’s CEO will announce that Amazon is teaming up with Cerner to convince senior healthcare leaders to use AWS for key initiatives like population health management.

Sources who spoke to CNBC that the partnership will initially focus on Cerner’s HealtheIntent population health product, presumably as a door into convincing hospitals shift more of the cloud-based business to AWS.

Now why, you ask, is this deal bigger than the average bear?  is it one of those vaporware partnerships that fly a flag and promise a lot but don’t really go anywhere?

Yes, I admit that’s always possible, but in this case, I don’t think it’s going to turn out that way. The fit simply seems to work too well for this to be one of those much-ballyhooed deals that fade away quietly. (In fact, I could visualize a Cerner/Amazon merger in the future, as crazy as that might sound. It’s certainly less risky than the Whole Foods deal.)

For one thing, both Amazon and Cerner have significant benefits they can realize. For example, as the story notes, Amazon hasn’t gotten far in the healthcare market, and given its talent for doing the impossible, it must be really stuck at this point. Cerner, meanwhile, will never pull together the kind of cloud options AWS can offer, and I doubt Epic could either, which gives Cerner a boost in the always next-and-neck competition with its top rival.

If this agreement goes through, the ripples could be felt throughout the healthcare industry, if for no other reason than the impact it will have on the enterprise EHR market. This one should be fun to watch. I’m pulling out the popcorn.

Measuring Population Health ROI Is Still Tricky

Posted on May 24, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Over the past few years, health systems have made massive investments in population health management technology. Given the forces driving the investments are still present – or even closer at hand – there’s every reason to believe that they will continue.

That being said, health leaders are beginning to ask more questions about what they’re getting in return.  While systems may have subjected the initial investments to less scrutiny than usual, having accepted that they were critically necessary, many of these organizations are now trying to figure out what kind of return on investment they can expect to realize. In the process, some are finding out that even deciding what to measure is still somewhat tricky.

Many healthcare organizations started out with a sense that while investment returns on pop health management tech would take a while, they were in the knowable future. For example, according to a KPMG survey conducted in early 2015, 20 percent of respondents believed that returns on their investment in population health IT would materialize in one to two years, 36 percent expected to see ROI in three to four years and 29 percent were looking at a five+ year horizon.

At the time, though, many of the execs answering the survey questions were just getting started with pop health. Thirty-eight percent said their population health management capabilities were elementary-stage, 23 percent said they were in their infancy and 15 percent said such capabilities were non-existent, KPMG reported.

Since then, health systems and hospitals have found that measuring – much less realizing – returns generated by these investments can be complicated and uncertain. According to Dennis Weaver, MD, a senior consultant with the Advisory Board, one mistake many organizations make is evaluating ROI based solely on whether they’re doing well in their managed care contracts.

“They are trying to pay for all of the investment – the technology, care managers, operational changes, medical homes—all with the accountable payment bucket,” said Weaver, who spoke with Healthcare Informatics.

Other factors to consider

Dr. Weaver argues that healthcare organizations should take at least two other factors into account when evaluating pop health ROI, specifically reduction of leakage and unwarranted care variation. For example, cutting down on leakage – having patients go out of network – offers a 7 to 10 times greater revenue opportunity than meeting accountable care goals. Meanwhile, by reducing unwarranted variations in care and improving outcomes, organizations can see a 5 percent to 10 percent margin improvement, Weaver told the publication.

Of course, no one approach will hold true for every organization.  Bobbie Brown, senior vice president with HealthCatalyst, suggests taking a big-picture approach and drilling down into how specific technologies net out financially.

She recommends that health organizations start the investment analysis with broad strategic questions like “Does this investment help us grow?” and “Are we balancing risk and reward?” She also proposes that health leaders create a matrix which compares the cost/benefit ratio for individual components of the planned pop health program, such as remote monitoring and care management. Sometimes, putting things into a matrix makes it clear which approaches are likely to pay off, she notes.

Over time, it seems likely that healthcare leaders will probably come to a consensus on what elements to measure when sizing up their pop health investments, as with virtually every other major HIT expense. But in the interim, it seems that figuring out where to look for ROI is going to take more work.

Diving Into Population Health

Posted on April 21, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Population Health is a nebulous term that seems to be applied a lot of different directions. To get a better understanding of what’s happening with Population Health, Healthcare Scene sat down with Arthur Kapoor, President and CEO of HealthEC. HealthEC has been working in healthcare and the population health space for more than 24 years, so they have an interesting perspective on how that space has evolved over the years and where we are today.

You can watch the full video embedded below, or skip to any of the following population health topics we discussed with Arthur:

Utilizing data to understand and better serve populations is only going to become more important in healthcare. A big thanks to Arthur for sharing his insights with us.

If you liked this video, be sure to subscribe to Healthcare Scene on YouTube and watch other Healthcare Scene interviews.

Population Health 101: The One Where It All Starts

Posted on December 7, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Abhinav Shashank, CEO & Co-founder of Innovaccer.
population-health-101
Former US President Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend four hours sharpening the ax.”  After having a look at the efficiency of the US healthcare system, one cannot help but notice the irony. A country spending $10,345 per person on healthcare shouldn’t be on the last spot of OECD rankings for life expectancy at birth!

Increasing Troubles
report from Commonwealth Fund points out how massive the US health care budget is. Various US governments have left no stone unturned in becoming the highest spender on healthcare, but have equally managed to see most of its money going down the drain!

Here are some highlights from the report:

  1. The US is 3rd when it comes to public spending on health care. The figure is $4197 per capita, but it covers only 34% of its residents. On the other hand, the UK spends only $2,802 per capita and covers 100% of the population!
  2. With $1,074, US has the 2nd highest private spending on healthcare.
  3. In 2013, US allotted 17.1% of its GDP to healthcare, which was the highest of any OECD country.   In terms of money, this was almost 50% more than the country in the 2nd spot.
  4. In the year 2013, the number of practicing physicians in the US was 2.6 per 1000 persons, which is less than the OECD median (3.2).
  5. The infant mortality rate in the US was also higher than other OECD nations.
  6. 68 percent of the population above 65 in the US is suffering from two or more chronic conditions, which is again the highest among OECD nations.

The major cause of these problems is the lack of knowledge about the population trends. The strategies in place will vibrantly work with the law only if they are designed according to the needs of the people.

population-health-trends

What is Population Health Management?
Population health management (PHM) might have been mentioned in ACA (2010), but the meaning of it is lost on many. I feel, the definition of population health, given by Richard J. Gilfillan, President and CEO of Trinity Health, is the most suitable one.

Population health refers to addressing the health status of a defined population. A population can be defined in many different ways, including demographics, clinical diagnoses, geographic location, etc. Population health management is a clinical discipline that develops, implements and continually refines operational activities that improve the measures of health status for defined populations.

The true realization of Population Health Management  (PHM) is to design a care delivery model which provides quality coordinated care in an efficient manner. Efforts in the right direction are being made, but the tools required for it are much more advanced and most providers lack the resources to own them.

Countless Possibilities
If Population Health Management is in place, technology can be leveraged to find out proactive solutions to acute episodes. Based on past episodes and outcomes, a better decision could be made.

The concept of health coaches and care managers can actually be implemented. When a patient is being discharged, care managers can confirm the compliance with health care plans. They can mitigate the possibility of readmission by keeping up with the needs and appointments of patients. Patients could be reminded about their medications. The linked health coaches could be intimated to further reduce the possibility of readmission.

Let us consider Diabetes for instance. Many times Diabetes is hereditary and preventive measures like patient engagement would play an important role in mitigating risks. Remote Glucometers, could be useful in keeping a check on patient sugar levels at home. It could also send an alert to health coaches and at-risk population could be engaged in near real-time.

Population Health Management not only keeps track of population trends but also reduces the cost of quality care. The timely engagement of at-risk population reduces the possibility of extra expenditure in the future. It also reduces the readmission rates. The whole point of population health management is to be able to offer cost effective quality-care.

The best thing to do with the past is to learn from it. If providers implement in the way Population Health Management is meant to be, then the healthcare system would be far better and patient-centric.

Success Story
A Virginia based collaborative started a health information based project in mid-2010. Since then, 11 practices have been successful in earning recognition from NCQA (National Committee for Quality Assurance). The implemented technologies have had a profound impact on organization’s performance.

  1. For the medical home patients, the 30-day readmission rate is below 2%.
  2. The patient engagement scores are at 97th percentile.
  3. With the help of the patient outreach program almost 40,000 patients have been visited as a part of preventive measures.

All this has increased the revenue by $7 million.

Barriers in the journey of Population Health Management
Currently, population health management faces a lot of challenges. The internal management and leadership quality has to be top notch so that interests remain aligned. Afterall, Population Health Management is all about team effort.

The current reimbursement model is also a concern. It has been brought forward from the 50s and now it is obsolete. Fee-for-service is anything, but cost-effective.

Patient-centric care is the heart of Population Health Management. The transition to this brings us to the biggest challenge and opportunity. Data! There is a lot of unstructured Data. True HIE can be achieved only if data are made available in a proper format. A format which doesn’t require tiring efforts from providers to get patient information. Providers should be able to gain access to health data in seconds.

The Road Ahead
We believe, the basic requirement for Population Health Management is the patient data. Everything related to a patient, such as, the outcome reports, the conditions in which the patient was born, lives, works, age and others is golden. To accurately determine the cost, activity-based costing could come in handy.

Today, the EMRs aren’t capable enough to address population health. The most basic model of population health management demands engagement on a ‘per member basis’ which can track and inform the cost of care at any point. The EMRs haven’t been designed in such a way. They just focus on the fee-for-service model.

In recent years, there has been an increased focus on population health management. Advances in the software field have been prominent and they account for the lion’s share of the expenditure on population health. I think, this could be credited to Affordable Care Act of 2010, which mandated the use of population health management solutions.

Today, the Population Health Management market is worth $14 billion and according to a report by Tractica, in five years, this value will be $31.8 billion. This is a good sign because it shows that the focus is on value-based care. There is no doubt we have miles to go, but at least now we are on the right path!

Is It a Hot or Cold Hospital EHR Buying Market?

Posted on August 12, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

In a recent blog post by Erik Bermudez, he asks the question about whether the Hospital EMR market is heating up or cooling down. He suggests that it’s heating up and offers this commentary as proof:

In 2015, KLAS validated that over 490 acute care hospitals were involved in an EMR contract decision of some kind, which represents an increase of almost 200% over 2014. That’s nearly 10% of the entire US hospital market making an EMR decision in 2015 alone.

We’ll see if this trend continues. No doubt there was a cooling off of the market as meaningful use matured in 2014. Given that cooling off period, it’s not really a surprise that it would start to heat up.

Eric also points out that buzzwords like population health and interoperability are dominating the conversation as opposed to EHR. I’d in the healthcare analytics buzzword to that list. These are indeed hot topics, but what’s interesting is that each of these topics really requires an EHR. You’re not likely to buy a healthcare analytics system if you don’t have an EHR. You need the data to be electronic (presumably in an EHR) to do the analytics (yes, I know there are edge cases where you don’t).

Given this dependency on EHR, we shouldn’t be surprised that many organizations are making an EMR decision. No doubt some healthcare organizations have an EMR that doesn’t support the advanced population health, interoperability and analytics initiatives they’d like to do. No doubt these advanced efforts are going to drive adoption of new EHR vendors that can support these efforts.

What do you think? Is the EHR buying market hot or cold? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Population Health Management: Lessons Learned

Posted on August 8, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Population Health Management Lessons Learned

I’m always on the lookout for best practices and insights that will help readers. This slide from the #HFSummit was a great look into insights into population health management. In some ways population health management is an old area, but with technology and new data sets it is also a very quickly evolving area. In case you can’t see the picture above, here are the lessons learned from population health management:

  • Segment high-risk populations
  • Harness advanced analytics
  • Use patient registries and medical homes
  • “No outcome, no income”
  • Go upstream
  • Eat your own cooking
  • Focus on the whole population
  • Meet people in their lives
  • Emphasize wellness and prevention
  • Think outside the box
  • Leverage technology
  • Partner, partner, partner

I think many of these are obvious and generic. However, a few of them are likely foreign to many healthcare organizations. As you look through the list, don’t compare yourself to other organizations. Instead, focus on where you’re at and where you want to be. We have too much comparing in hospitals and health systems and not enough leaders that are working to be the best they can be. We all don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but we also shouldn’t just follow like minions with no thought as to where we’re going.

Population Health Tech Will Lag Until Standards Emerge

Posted on June 22, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

There’s little doubt that healthcare organizations will continue to partner up with peers and acquire physician practices. The forces that drive healthcare network development are only intensifying as time goes by, particularly as the drive toward value-based payment moves ahead. But there’s a lot more to making such deals work than a handshake and a check. To make these deals work, it’s critical that networks become experts at population health management — and unfortunately, that’s going to be tough.

While merging health systems into ACOs or acquiring referring physicians has merit, this strategy won’t grow the steadily dropping pace of hospital admissions, notes William Faber, M.D., senior vice president of the GE Healthcare Camden Group. “Though clinically integrated networks do enlarge the patient base, one of their aims is also to reduce the percentage of admissions from that base,” making it unlikely that the networks will grow admissions, he points out.

To make a clinically integrated network successful, it certainly helps to take the initiative – to get to market more quickly than competitors – and to do a better job of controlling costs of care and demonstrating higher quality and service. Where things get stickier, however, is in managing that care across a large group. “The creation of a clinically integrated network must not be just a marketing or physician alignment strategy – it must truly enable effective population health management,” he writes.

And this, I’d argue, is where things get very tricky. Well, judge for yourself, but I’d argue that the HIT industry is ill-equipped to support these goals. Despite many years of paper-chart experimentation with population health, and several with population health technology, my sense is that the tech is far behind what it needs to be. Health IT vendors won’t get far until providers do a better job of defining what they need.

A different mindset

The truth is, this generation of EMRs is designed to track individual patients across an experience of care. While CIOs can add a layer of analytics technology to the mix, that is a far cry from creating tools that natively track population health trends. Looking at populations is simply a different mindset.

Admittedly, vendors will tell you that they’ve got the problem licked, but if they were completely candid many would have to admit that their products aren’t mature yet. Until someone creates an EMR or other basic tool which is designed, at its core, to track group health trends, I foresee more half-baked hacks than results.

What’s more, I doubt the health IT business will be able to help until it has at least an informal standard to which such products must adhere. Should such tools measure costs of care by diagnosis code? Compare such costs to national standards? Highlight patients in outpatient settings whose tests or exams suggest a crisis is about to happen? If so, which settings, and what cutoffs should be tracked for test scores? Does such a system need natural language processing to scour physician notes for trigger words, and if so which ones?

Without a doubt, medical and business executives leading integrated networks will come together and develop more answers to these questions. But until they do, health IT vendors won’t be able to help much with the population health challenge.

Are Current Population Health Tools Becoming Outdated?

Posted on May 18, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

These days, virtually all hospitals and health systems are looking at ways to manage population health. Most of their approaches assume that it’s a matter of identifying the right big data tools and crunching the numbers, using the data already in-house. Doing this may be costly and time-consuming, but it can be done using existing databases, integration engines and the appropriate business analytics tools, or so the conventional wisdom holds.

However, at least one health IT leader disagrees. Adrian Zai, MD, clinical director of population informatics at Massachusetts General Hospital, argues that current tools designed to enable population health management can’t do the job effectively. “All of the health IT tools companies call population health today will be irrelevant because the data they look at can only see what goes through hospital, which is far too narrow in scope.”

Zai points out that most healthcare organizations attempt to leverage claims data in doing population health management analyses. But that approach is far from ideal, he told Healthcare IT News. Claims data, he points out, is typically one to two months old, which significantly limits the value healthcare providers can generate from the data. Also, most hospitals’ claims data only covers about 20% to 30% of the area’s population, he notes.

Instead, organizations need to study real-time data drawn from a significantly broader population if they hope to achieve population health management goals, Zai argues. For example, it’s important to look at the Medicaid population, whose members may get most of their care through community health centers. It’s also important to collect data from other consumer touch points. (Zai doesn’t specify which touch points he means, but mobile health and remote patient monitoring data come to mind immediately.)

I think Zai make some excellent points here. In particular, while achieving true real-time analysis is probably well the future for most healthcare organizations, the fresher data you can use the better. Certainly, analyzing archival data has a purpose, but to have a major impact on outcomes, it’s important to foster behavior change in the present.

However, I’d argue that few providers are ready to roll ahead with this approach. After all, to achieve his goals means establishing some new definitions as to what data should be included in population health analysis. And that’s not as simple as it sounds. (For a recent look at how providers look at population health, check out this survey from last summer.)

First, providers need to take a fresh look at how they define the term “population,” and develop a definition that takes in a more comprehensive view of patient data. Certainly, claims data analysis is start, but that by definition is limited to insured patients seen at the hospital. Zai recommends that population health management efforts embrace all patients seen at the hospital, insured or not. In other words, he’s recommending hospitals address the community in which they are physically located, not just the community of patients for whom they have provided care.

Just as importantly, hospitals and health systems need to consider how to collect, incorporate and analyze the exponentially-growing field of digital health data. While some middleware solutions offer to serve as a gateway for such data, it seems likely that providers will still need to do a lot of hands-on work to make use of these data sources.

Finally, providers need to continually improve the algorithms they use to pinpoint problems in a given population, as well as the ways in which they create actionable subsets of the population. For example, it may be appropriate to target patients by disease state today, but other ways of improving outcomes might arise, and providers’ IT solutions need to be flexible enough to evolve with the times.

Over time, the industry will evolve best practices for population health management, and definedthe IT tools best suited to accomplish reasons. And while some existing tools may work, I’d be surprised if most survive the transition.

Population Health Survey

Posted on August 28, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

One of the themes we’ve been writing a lot about recently is incorporating more social and behavioral health data into the EHR and healthcare. I think we’re at the start of a trend around using data in healthcare that is not going to stop. While we currently have more access to data than ever, it feels more like getting beat down by a wave on the beach than it does surfing a wave that provides an amazing thrill and speed. I guess I’m saying that we haven’t learned to harness the power of the wave data yet.

Much of the work we’re doing with healthcare data is around population health. I was intrigued by the findings of a population health survey done by Xerox. Here are some of the insights they shared with me:

What is population health? Definition components were ranked in the following order:

  1. Facilitates care across the health continuum
  2. Supports providing the highest quality of care at the lowest cost
  3. Uses actionable insight for patient care based on a variety of data
  4. Targets a specific population of individuals
  5. Enables patient engagement

Is population health management necessary?

100 percent of polled providers agree that population health management is necessary as the U.S. shifts to value-based care. 81 percent indicated they “strongly agree” with the statement, while the remaining 19 percent indicated they “somewhat agree” with the statement.

What is driving population health? Driving factors were ranked in the following order:

  1. Improved health outcomes
  2. Improved patient relationships and experiences
  3. Cost containment
  4. Increased revenue opportunity
  5. Brand and competition with others in market

What challenges exist in population health management? Challenges were ranked in the following order:

  1. Data management and integration capabilities
  2. Lack of financial incentives, too much risk
  3. Poor care coordination across care providers
  4. Creating actionable intelligence from available data
  5. Lack of provider expertise or knowledge
  6. Low patient engagement

When will population health management be a reality?

81 percent of polled providers believe their organizations will deliver fully scaled population health management programs within 5 years, which includes 16 percent who indicated they already are.

What this survey tells me is that we’re still trying to figure out population health. Plus, people have a really broad definition of what’s considered population health. Does that mean the word no longer has much meaning?

The final stat might be the most telling. Almost everyone believed that their organization would be able to deliver a fully scaled population health management program. Maybe there’s some arrogance bias in who participated in the survey, but I’m quite sure that we’ll have a lot more stragglers in the population health world than 18%. It’s taken us how many years to get 60% EHR adoption? I won’t be surprised if population health takes us even longer.

All of that said, the best organizations are going to leverage healthcare data to improve population health. That’s a powerful concept which isn’t going away ever.