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For Hospitals: Tips On Working With An EHR Consulting Firm

Posted on April 19, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Even if you are a very experienced health IT pro, managing your relationship with an EHR consultant in no joke. There’s a lot at stake and only so much time to meet your goals.

Not only that, there are lots of ways a project can go wrong, such as 1) ending up with an EHR platform that’s no more or even less useful than it was before, 2) finding out that your newly updated or optimized EHR doesn’t work correctly or 3) spending a lot more than you expected on the contract.

That being said, you might benefit from the tips on working with consulting firms offered on the ever-insightful HISTalk site. My favorites include the following:

  • Don’t let consultants burn billable hours with your vendor or other consultants without your participation or approval.
  • Remember that the #1 job of consultants is to create fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) that you can survive without them.
  • Don’t be fooled by the sample resumes consulting firms provide during the selection process. In most cases, it is unlikely those will be the resources on your project. Bait and switch is common.
  • Call lots of references. Not the ones they gave you, but others on their “we’ve worked for every health system in the country” logo slide. Find out who is on their A team and get them.
  • Check their quoted number of employees (many firms are 70% temporary staffers). Go to LinkedIn and see how many people actually list them as an employer.
  • Interview the actual consultants who will work with you and ask hard technical questions.
  • Be aware that some firms might try to get you fired so they can put their replacement in as interim leadership and bill for it.

Wow, that’s a dark picture. You have to brace yourself for consulting firms which may be palming off inexperienced people on you, attempting to get you fired, trying to make you completely dependent on them and costing you more money than you planned to spend. It’s not a pretty picture.

On the other hand, few healthcare organizations can do completely without consultants, or the health IT consulting business would exist in the first place. Eventually, you’re probably going to have to bite the bullet and hire outside help. Just be aware of some of the risks associated with choosing the wrong consulting company.

Yes, hiring such a firm can be a bit concerning, but if you spend enough effort on the search you have a good chance of finding the right organization. Bottom line, if you’re skeptical, thorough and willing to go the extra mile research-wise, you can find a consulting firm that will serve your purposes and help you achieve the goals you wouldn’t be able to achieve without their help.

Hospital Patient Identification Still A Major Problem

Posted on April 18, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

A new survey suggests that problems with duplicate patient records and patient identification are still costing hospitals a tremendous amount of money.

The survey, which was conducted by Black Book Research, collected responses from 1,392 health technology managers using enterprise master patient index technology. Researchers asked them what gaps, challenges and successes they’d seen in patient identification processes from Q3 2017 to Q1 2018.

Survey respondents reported that 33% of denied claims were due to inaccurate patient identification. Ultimately, inaccurate patient identification cost an average hospital $1.5 million last year. It also concluded that the average cost of duplicate records was $1,950 per patient per inpatient stay and more than $800 per ED visit.

In addition, researchers found that hospitals with over 150 beds took an average of more than 5 months to clean up their data. This included process improvements focused on data validity checking, normalization and data cleansing.

Having the right tools in place seemed to help. Hospitals said that before they rolled out enterprise master patient index solutions, an average of 18% of their records were duplicates, and that match rates when sharing data with other organizations averaged 24%.

Meanwhile, hospitals with EMPI support in place since 2016 reported that patient records were identified correctly during 93% of registrations and 85% of externally shared records among non-networked provider.

Not surprisingly, though, this research doesn’t tell the whole story. While using EMPI tools makes sense, the healthcare industry should hardly stop there, according to Gartner Group analyst Wes Rishel.

“We simply need innovators that have the vision to apply proven identity matching to the healthcare industry – as well as the gumption and stubbornness necessary to thrive in a crowded and often slow-moving healthcare IT market,” he wrote.

Wishel argues that to improve patient matching, it’s time to start cross-correlating demographic data from patients with demographic data from third-party sources, such as public records, credit agencies or telephone companies, what makes this data particularly helpful is that it includes not just current and correct attributes for person, but also out-of-date and incorrect attributes like previous addresses, maiden names and typos.

Ultimately, these “referential matching” approaches will significantly outperform existing probabilistic models, Wishel argues.

It’s really shocking that so many healthcare organizations don’t have an EMPI solution in place. This is especially true as cloud EMPI has made EMPI solutions available to organizations of all sizes. EMPI is needed for the financial reasons mentioned above, but also from a patient care and patient safety perspective as well.

Hospital Mobile Device Initiatives Can Improve Patient Satisfaction

Posted on April 17, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Without a doubt, hospitals have many reasons to implement mobile technology, which can offer everything from improved communications to logistical support. But the benefits of these rollouts may offer more than operational benefits. At least according to data gathered by the following survey, hospital mobile initiatives almost always improve patient experience and satisfaction.

The study, conducted by Vanson Bourne on behalf of Apple-based mobile device management company Jamf, draws on a survey of 600 global healthcare IT decision-makers based in the US, the Netherlands, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Respondents worked in both private and public healthcare organizations.

Researchers found that 96% of healthcare IT decision-makers currently implementing a mobile device initiative felt that it had a positive impact on patient experiences and satisfaction. Also, 32% reported that they saw a significant increase in patient experience scores.

The survey also found that among institutions currently implementing or planning to implement a mobile device initiative, the devices are most likely used in nurses stations (72%), administrative offices (63%) and patient rooms (56%). In addition, survey participants anticipate that mobile device use will expand to both clinical care teams (59%) and administrative staff (54%). What’s more, 47% of respondents said they plan to increase mobile device use in their institution of the next two years.

To exert better control over these efforts, hospitals can leverage a mobile device management solution. However, the survey found that only 48% of healthcare IT decision-makers had full confidence in their MDM solution’s capacity to do its job. That’s down from 59% in 2016.

Also, as data sharing increases via mobile devices and apps, data security becomes even more important. However, many health IT leaders aren’t sure they can pull this off. Their biggest challenges included data privacy (54%), security/compliance (51%) and keeping software properly patched (40%).

But they don’t think MDM tools can solve the problem. Ninety-five percent of respondents said their current MDM solution could stand to offer better security options, and almost a third (31%) of respondents thinking about mobile device initiatives were holding off because they weren’t sure they could secure the devices adequately.

Unfortunately, the health IT world seems to have made little progress in securing mobile devices over the past year. In a similar Jamf study conducted last year, 88% of respondents were concerned about managing security, data privacy (77%) and blocking inappropriate employee use (49%).

TigerConnect Successfully Rebrands in Just 9 Months

Posted on April 16, 2018 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

Rebranding is not easy. Rebranding a well-established company that has become synonymous with a form of healthcare communication is even harder. Executing that rebrand in just 9 months while simultaneously preparing for healthcare’s biggest event – the annual HIMSS conference – is a near impossible task. Yet that’s what the team at TigerText, now TigerConnect, pulled off earlier this year.

At HIMSS18, TigerText became TigerConnect. Along with the new name came a new logo – albeit one with a clear homage to their company’s past. The new logo features a cleaner font style and a clever graphic element. If you look closely you will see that the graphic is four interlocking C’s which represent the company’s goal – Connected, Clinical, Communications, and Collaboration. The four colors are meant to represent the four different members of the care team: Doctors, Nurses, Allied Health Professionals, and Patients.

“The old brand was really about texting and compliance,” explained Kelli Castellano, Chief Marketing Officer for TigerConnect. “Not only was the word ‘text’ front and center, but our old brand also had a text box with a lock symbol as the main graphic. You couldn’t get more literal than that. When we first started, we were focused on being the best secure texting and compliance solution in the market. We sold to healthcare compliance officers and to CIOs. The TigerText brand personified that focus and it really served us well.”

But then in 2016, the company launched a new clinical workflow solution called TigerFlow.

“When we showed TigerFlow to prospects it was well received,” Castellano continued. “But people would leave the meeting wondering why their texting company was talking to them about clinical workflow. Worse, many clinicians were confused on being invited to a meeting with TigerText – a company they viewed as a technology infrastructure provider.”

By early 2017, after a few months of research and introspection, the team realized that the company name and brand was holding them back. It was simply too much to ask their target audience, which now included clinical decision makers like CMOs, CMIOs and CNOs, to see the company as anything more than a texting platform.

Castellano and the rest of the Marketing Team knew that rebranding the company would be risky. After all, hundreds of thousands of users click the TigerText logo each day on their phones to communicate securely with their peers. “TigerTexting” had even become a verb used by their customers to describe the act of sending messages through their system.

To gain buy-in and build internal momentum for a rebrand, Castellano asked her team to “do the research” and gather feedback from stakeholders including: customers, board advisors, partners and staff. They found there was consensus for changing the TigerText name.

After three months of work, Castellano and her team, with the support of Co-Founder and CEO, Brad Brooks, officially began the rebranding initiative.

It was now the end of spring 2017 and Castellano set an ambitious goal of launching the new brand at HIMSS18 – only 9 months away. “It was definitely an audacious goal,” admitted Castellano. “But we all knew that it just had to get done. Our Sales Team needed it. Our company needed it. We just had to move forward.”

Castellano allocated half of her ten person team to work on the rebrand while the other half worked on HIMSS18 pre-show marketing and building up their sales funnel. Everything came together and on March 6th the new brand was revealed.

CEO Brooks explained the new name this way: “Our new name – TigerConnect – allows us to clearly articulate the true value our solutions deliver. We connect care teams, existing data systems, and ultimately healthcare communities across a centralized and highly scalable clinical messaging platform. It is this real-time connection to data and people that dramatically improves the way healthcare organizations communicate to drive better results. We wanted that value to be reflected in our name and brand icon which are 4 interlocking C’s that represent Connected Clinical Communication and Collaboration.”

According to Castellano the reaction internally has been overwhelmingly positive. “We gave our staff a preview of the new brand in January. Everyone was very proud and happy with the new name. It was fresh and new, yet it still had a nod to our heritage and roots. Everyone felt that the new brand would allow us to better position the company and elevate the conversations we were having.”

“The reaction at HIMSS was also very positive,” noted Brooks. “The name change gave us the opportunity to talk about our story. We talked about where we had been and where we were going. It was really a lightbulb moment for visitors to the booth. We got a lot of ‘Aha…that makes sense’ comments.”

Having led three rebranding initiatives at three different companies, I applaud Castellano and her team for achieving their goal in such a short time frame. To do it on top of preparing for HIMSS is simply incredible.

It will be interesting to track the growth of TigerConnect in the years to come to see if the rebrand helps the company reach its desired financial results.

How Do You See Emerging Tech Like AI and Machine Learning Improving Efficiency in Clinical Settings?

Posted on April 12, 2018 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.

The title of this post was the question that Samsung Healthcare posted to me:

Here was my knee jerk response:

At least a couple people strongly agreed including this one:

AJ is right that the tech is nearly there to do all of this. I suggested that they key is going to be the person that packages it the right way.

This is a lesson we all learned from the iPhone. Very few things within the iPhone were unique and new. It was how Apple packaged all of the components that made it special. I think it’s going to play out the same when it comes to physician documentation. All of the NLP, Voice Recognition, Machine Learning, and AI tools are out there. Everyone will have access to them, but how they’re packaged is going to make all the difference.

All of that said, I don’t see this too far off. We’re already starting to see elements of it, but the entrenched players will have a hard time doing this. They’re already getting rich off of their existing products, so they’ll continue to make incremental improvements. Some startup company is going to come along and package this all the right way and win.

Plus, let’s be clear that one of the biggest parts of the packaging will be how it transitions users from the old way of thinking to a new approach. However, once the doctor sees it in action, they’ll see it as magical. Compared to the forms they’re doing today, it will be magical.

Who do you see offering this? Are any of the EHR vendors brave enough to do this? It’s so badly needed by so many.

Telemedicine, A Lesson from Tetris, and Collaborative Overload – Twitter Roundup

Posted on April 11, 2018 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.

Twitter is full of juicy nuggets of wisdom and insight which can inspire, motivate, and educate you. That’s why occasionally we like to do a roundup of tweets which recently caught our eye. Plus, we add a little bit of our own commentary on each tweet. I hope you enjoy. This week’s Twitter roundup has some great ideas.


This is a pretty interesting way to frame telehealth. Many of the challenges described in the image above are challenges that most healthcare organizations face. Especially larger hospitals and health systems. It’s pretty shocking to see how telehealth is a great solution for many of those challenges.

The sad part of all of this is that there is still resistance to telehealth. I understand there are complex things at play in healthcare, but this seems like an obvious one. Will telehealth finally have it’s moment? Is it waiting for something to really breakthrough as main stream?


I agree that you have to enjoy anything that starts with “If Tetris has taught me anything” as well. However, his point is a great one. I think we are suffering through this in many healthcare organizations. The errors and bad choices have really piled up and now we’re in very challenging situations. Mike Tyson is insane, but he sure makes you look at things differently.


Maybe I’m the only one that hadn’t heard of collaborative overload, but I really like the concept. I also love how this assessment breaks out collaborative overload into planning, people, priorities, and being present. Does anyone else have some good reading on this topic? I’d love to learn more.

Health Orgs Were In Talks To Collect SDOH Data From Facebook

Posted on April 9, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

These days, virtually everyone in healthcare has concluded that integrating social determinants of health data with existing patient health information can improve care outcomes. However, identifying and collecting useful, appropriately formatted SDOH information can be a very difficult task. After all, in most cases it’s not just lying around somewhere ripe for picking.

Recently, however, Facebook began making the rounds with a proposal that might address the problem. While the research initiative has been put on hold in light of recent controversy over Facebook’s privacy practices, my guess is that the healthcare players involved will be eager to resume talks if the social media giant manages to calm the waters.

According to CNBC, Facebook was talking to healthcare organizations like Stanford Medical School and American College of Cardiology, in addition to several other hospitals, about signing a data-sharing agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, the healthcare organizations would share anonymized patient data, which Facebook planned to match up with user data from its platform.

Facebook’s proposal will sound familiar to readers of this site. It suggested combining what a health system knows about its patients, such as their age, medication list and hospital admission history, with Facebook-available data such as the user’s marital status, primary language and level of community involvement.

The idea would then be to study, with an initial focus on cardiovascular health, whether this combined data could improve patient care, something its prospective partners seem to think possible. The CNBC story included a gushing statement from American College of Cardiology interim CEO Cathleen Gates suggesting that such data sharing could create revolutionary results. According to Gates, the ACC believes that mixing anonymized Facebook data with anonymized ACC data could help greatly in furthering scientific research on how social media can help in preventing and treating heart disease.

As the business site notes, the data would not include personally identifiable information. That being said, Facebook proposed to use hashing to match individuals existing in both data sets. If the project were to have gone forward, Facebook might’ve shared data on roughly 87 million users.

Looked at one way, this arrangement could raise serious privacy questions. After all, healthcare organizations should certainly exercise caution when exchanging even anonymized data with any outside organization, and with questions still lingering on how willing Facebook is to lock data down projects like this become even riskier.

Still, under the right circumstances, Facebook could prove to be an all but ideal source of comprehensive, digitized SDOH data. Well now, arguably, might not be the time to move ahead, hospitals should keep this kind of possibility in mind.

Translating from Research to Bedside

Posted on April 2, 2018 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.

I’m increasingly interested in how we bridge the gap between research and practice in healthcare. No doubt my increased interest comes from the need to prove the value of data and technology in healthcare.

Remember that when we first started introducing EHR software into healthcare, the main goals were around billing and possibly efficiency. The former one has been a success in many aspects and the former has been a pretty big failure. However, the focus was never initially on how to improve care and the focus on billing has actually had a negative impact on care in ways that most people didn’t expect.

Now we’re seeing healthcare organizations trying to shift EHR models so that they do work to improve care. This has proven to be a challenge and it’s no doubt why many healthcare organizations are going beyond the EHR to make population health happen.

The other problem with moving into the clinical improvement space is that the bar is much higher. No one minds too much if you take risks in billing. That’s why most AI (Artificial Intelligence) is starting there as well. However, when you start dealing with the clinical aspects of healthcare, you have to take a much different approach and requires proper research of proposed ideas and methods.

Therein lies the challenge for much of the healthcare IT innovation. There’s a large gap between researchers and the bedside. This was highlighted really well by a researcher who described the challenge of translating research into medicine:

Speaker 3: The current models are not translational. We need more innovation and check out my cool data that does not address the topic.

The moderator was clearly the speaker’s past mentor as extra time was spent introducing this investigator’s novel interpretation of the topic. The introduction slide simply said NO in bold letters and the speaker launched into a TedX style talk on how these models are not translational and it is a waste of time for the Department of Defense or NIH to fund multi-team consortium to develop new relevant models. Remember, it was a panel discussion. This speaker left the panel and walked into the crowd spouting off about how translational research as it is defined would not prove useful and innovation was required to develop new therapies. In addition, replicative studies or lack of replication was moot because one can’t trust how other scientists conduct their science. As an example of innovation, studies demonstrating the effective integration of neuronal progenitor cells into the brain of a mouse model of epilepsy were shared. These studies were not done in a traumatic brain injury model, but a different model entirely. Innovative and published in a well-regarded journal, yes; translational, not likely and only time and additional studies will determine; relevant to the topic, no. Supporters of this young investigator probably called this display brave. There were no answers to be found here, only self-promotion. The presentation was not designed for discussion amongst peers, but was strategically delivered to help the investigator’s career trajectory. The song and dance number did not reflect a dedication to developing new therapies for people following a traumatic brain injury.

A successful Investigator’s Workshop speaker will address the topic using scientific data, but most importantly capture a story for the audience. Ideally, bullet points from learned experience or on which the speaker would like feedback will be shared and will foster discussion amongst the moderator, panelists, and audience members. It is an opportunity for the scientist to improve their approach as well as inform the audience.

This was an important insight to remember as we consider how to incorporate research into healthcare IT. The motivations of researchers are often not aligned with translating their research into practice. Researcher’s focus is often on career promotion, grant dollars, and publications. That’s a real disconnect between what most health IT vendors and healthcare organizations want to achieve.

Health Leaders Go Beyond EHRs To Tackle Value-Based Care

Posted on March 30, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

In the broadest sense, EHRs were built to manage patient populations — but largely one patient at a time. As a result, it’s little wonder that they aren’t offering much support for value-based care as is, as a recent report from Sage Growth Partners suggests.

Sage spoke with 100 healthcare executives to find out what they saw as their value-based care capabilities and obstacles. Participants included leaders from a wide range of entities, including an ACO, several large physician practices and a midsize integrated delivery network.

The overall sense Sage seems to have gotten from its research was that while value-based care contracts are beginning to pay off, health execs are finding it difficult support these contacts using the EHRs they have in place. While their EHRs can produce quality reports, most don’t offer data aggregation and analytics, risk stratification, care coordination or tools to foster patient and clinician engagement, the report notes.

To get the capabilities they need for value-based contracting, health organizations are layering population health management solutions on top of their EHRs. Though these additional PHM tools may not be fully mature, health executives told Sage that there already seeing a return on such investments.

This is not necessarily because these organizations aren’t comfortable with their existing EHR. The Sage study found that 65% of respondents were somewhat or highly unlikely to replace their EHR in the next three years.

However, roughly half of the 70% of providers who had EHRs for at least three years also have third-party PHM tools in place as well. Also, 64% of providers said that EHRs haven’t delivered many important value-based contracting tools.

Meanwhile, 60% to 75% of respondents are seeking value-based care solutions outside their EHR platform. And they are liking the results. Forty-six percent of the roughly three-quarters of respondents who were seeing ROI with value-based care felt that their third-party population PHM solution was essential to their success.

Despite their concerns, healthcare organizations may not feel impelled to invest in value-based care tools immediately. Right now, just 5% of respondents said that value-based care accounted for over 50% of their revenues, while 62% said that such contracts represented just 0 to 10% of their revenues. Arguably, while the growth in value-based contracting is continuing apace, it may not be at a tipping point just yet.

Still, traditional EHR vendors may need to do a better job of supporting value-based contracting (not that they’re not trying). The situation may change, but in the near term, health executives are going elsewhere when they look at building their value-based contracting capabilities. It’s hard to predict how this will turn out, but if I were an enterprise EHR vendor, I’d take competition with population health management specialist vendors very seriously.

Are We Going About Population Health The Wrong Way?

Posted on March 29, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

For most of us, the essence population health management is focusing on patients who have already experienced serious adverse health events. But what if that doesn’t work? At least one writer suggests that though it may seem counterintuitive, the best way to reduce needless admissions and other costly problems is to focus on patients identified by predictive health data rather than “gut feelings” or chasing frequent flyers.

Shantanu Phatakwala, managing director of research and development for Evolent Health, argues that focusing on particularly sick patients won’t reduce costs nearly as much as hospital leaders expect, as their assumptions don’t withstand statistical scrutiny.

Today, physicians and care management teams typically target patients with a standard set of characteristics, including recent acute events, signs of health and stability such as recent inpatient admissions and chronic conditions such as diabetes, COPD and heart disease. These metrics come from a treatment mindset rather than a predictive one, according to Phatakwala.

This approach may make sense intellectually, but in reality, it may not have the desired effect. “The reality is that patients who have already had major acute events tend to stabilize, and their future utilization is not as high,” he writes. Meanwhile, health leaders are missing the chance to prevent serious illness in an almost completely different cohort of patients.

To illustrate his point, he tells the story of a commercial entity managing 19,000 lives which began a population health management project. In the beginning, health leaders worked with the data science team, which identified 353 people whose behavior suggested that they were headed for trouble.

The entity then focused its efforts on 253 of the targeted cohort for short-term personal attention, including both personal goals (such as walking their daughter down the aisle at her wedding later that year) and health goals (such as losing 25 pounds). Care managers and nurses helped them develop plans to achieve these goals through self-management.

Meanwhile, the care team overrode data analytics recommendations regarding the remaining 100 patients and did not offer them specialized care interventions during the six-month program.  Lo and behold, care for the patients who didn’t get enrolled in health management programs cost 75% more than for patients who were targeted, at a total cost of $1.4 million. Whew!

None of this is to suggest that intuition is useless. However, this case illustrates the need for trusting data over intuition in some situations. As Phatakwala notes, this can call for a leap of faith, as on the surface it makes more sense to focus on patients who are already sick. But until clinicians feel comfortable working with predictive analytics data, health systems may never achieve the population health management results they seek, he contends. And he seems to have a good point.