Population health is a popular buzzword within the healthcare industry, but for practices and providers, it’s much more than that.
In spite of the ever-increasing importance of understanding and improving the health of populations, 56 percent of healthcare leaders are underwhelmed by population health management technology. In fact, a significant number of healthcare practices (74 percent) either use no population health management tools at all or solely rely on their electronic health record (EHR) system for this function, whether due to a lack of effectiveness or their own hesitance to adopt new technologies.
In this article, we’ll explain some of the reasons for this state of affairs, as well as how practices can better use modern healthcare technology in tandem with population health initiatives.
Why are population health management solutions missing the mark?
Why and how are so many population health management solutions missing the mark? Healthcare leaders cited poor clinician engagement, inability to convert data to action, and lack of sufficient analytics as their primary concerns with existing tools. The biggest barriers to effectively using population health management technologies include the following challenges.
Lack of Engagement
Engaging patients is essential for population health management to be successful. Unfortunately, many of the population health technologies on the market fail to encourage both patients and clinicians to actively engage.
Ineffective EHR Solutions
Many healthcare practices rely on EHR systems for population health management, despite most proving ineffective and limited in terms of population health management. Similar to built-in patient portals and engagement features, many EHRs lack the functionality necessary for achieving population health success. Healthcare leaders say relying on EHRs for population health management instead of “purpose-built” solutions is problematic—especially in the wake of the COVID-19 health crisis.
Interoperability challenges have impacted several industries in recent years, and healthcare is certainly no exception. The unfortunate reality is that a number of healthcare tools lack interoperability and operate in isolation. Data silos ultimately hinder care coordination efforts and impede progress toward successful population health initiatives.
No Analytics or Reporting
Surprisingly enough, some population health management tools completely lack real-time data and reporting capabilities. This prevents healthcare practices from identifying and closing care gaps, pinpointing high-risk patients, proactively managing the health of populations, and much more.
How can healthcare practices better use population health technology?
With so many practices looking to replace insufficient population health technology with more comprehensive, patient-centric platforms, healthcare professionals must identify ways to make better use of new systems. Healthcare practices can benefit from using population health management technology that enables them to achieve the following:
Improve Patient Engagement and Participation
Patient engagement plays a critical role in encouraging high-risk patients to take an active role in their own care and adhere to treatment plans. Because keeping patients healthy between office visits is an important part of population health management, the more engaged and empowered they are, the better. Healthcare practices should look for population health management solutions that enable patient engagement throughout their care journey—meaning before, during, and after appointments with providers.
Analyze Data and Patient Reported Outcomes
Clinical data and patient reported outcomes (PROs) are essential for driving real, meaningful changes to care management and delivery. By collecting and analyzing PRO data using a comprehensive population health management tool—and making sure data is standardized and integrated with their EHR—providers can gain better understanding of the health risks of various patient populations. Documenting and sharing social determinants of health (SDOH) data can also help practices better understand their communities and improve their population health and clinical outcomes.
Use Actionable Data to Initiate Meaningful Changes
With a better understanding of population health risks, needs, and goals, healthcare practices can easily identify high-risk patients and initiate targeted interventions. Population health tools that allow for automated interventions help providers triage patients based on medical necessity. In other words, clinical staff can reach out to high-risk patients manually via their preferred channel and use automated interventions to engage lower risk patients between office visits.
Invest in effective population health management technology.
Despite the challenges of population health management and value-based care, healthcare practices can find and invest in better technology to address barriers and improve the effectiveness of their initiatives. Through smart use of clinical and non-clinical data, proactive patient outreach to encourage healthy behaviors, and targeted interventions for more high-risk individuals, practices can improve population health efforts and offer the best care possible for patients in their communities.