As technology continues to advance on a daily basis, so does healthcare. And along with better healthcare comes an increased importance of managing public and population health. Population health vs. public health needs to be defined. Population health management is defined as the health outcomes for a certain group of people, whether that be a community, region or race. On the other hand, public health is defined as the promoting of health or healthy lifestyle to a group of people. There are more defined groups outlined within Population Health Management, especially with the primary goal being to deliver better services at a more affordable price so that the entire defined population can receive the healthcare services that they are in need of.
While many healthcare facilities are already aiming to improve their population health activities, there are several challenges present. For starters, some healthcare centers are still behind in regards to electronic health records (EHR), which makes it nearly impossible for the organization to accurately assess treatments and outcomes on any grand level. And, even for those that have jumped on the EHR bandwagon, it can still be difficult to manage the electronic systems. In order to overcome these issues, there are three critical systems that should be developed and deployed to ensure superior effectiveness of Population Health Management.
An enterprise data warehouse is of the utmost importance because it helps manage patient populations. It is within this warehouse that healthcare facilities can store their patient information as well as analyze it and create reports. Ultimately, this allows healthcare facilities to make sense of the data that they collect, which leads to better patient outcomes when the information is captured and appropriately addressed. Advanced analytics help these centers:
- Measure clinical data
- Enhance patient safety
- Provide patient satisfaction
- Deliver more affordable services
The dashboard that gets used to display and manage the data should be fully customizable. In fact, there are some dashboards that are equivalent to 1000+ dashboards combined into one, with the ability to perform hundreds of metrics. As a healthcare facility performs analytics, it should strive to answer these three questions:
- How do care continuum functions flow throughout the system?
- Which items need to be analyzed the most frequently?
- Does the data help improve the measurement of baselines and increase goal achievement?
The data warehouse where the information is stored should have many modules that span across the entire continuum of Population Health Management and clinical workflows, patient injury prevention, and department operations.
There are more than a few quality improvement opportunities available in the healthcare industry, as well as many waste reduction activities that can be implemented. Did you know that more than $750B has been wasted on US healthcare in terms of money that could have been saved if better practices had been in place? Remedying this problem is not going to happen overnight, but it can start today. Years and years of testing and measuring will be needed to fully see the outcomes, but with standardized practices, it becomes possible to lessen:
- Patient injury waste
- Ordering waste
- Workflow and operational waste
With an advanced data warehouse, it becomes possible to take advantage of:
- Project charter templates
- Project plan templates
- Draft electronic value stream maps
- Order sets
Using these aspects of a Population Health Management plan enables healthcare organizations to provide better patient outcomes through communication with:
- Clinical operations leaders
Deployment System Across the Entire Organization
It must be kept in mind that PHM does not come about through a series of projects that take place only one time. These projects are ongoing and require a system and continual effort throughout the entire organization. As deployment takes place across the entire organization, it then becomes possible to achieve:
- Cost reductions
- Better patient care
- Improved managerial teams
- Technical improvements
- Span facilities
Measuring the System from Here on Out
Once a system is in place, the rules are being adhered to, the progress needs to be measured to keep the momentum moving forward. Again, this isn’t just as simple as installing and implementing changes and then leaving the project to run its own course. Management of the system comes by comparing and contrasting old and new information. Data-driven decisions are visible as they system defines patterns within the population and organization. These calculations need to be as close to real-time as possible in order to make necessary corrections sooner rather than later. Measuring and management is the long-term aspect of Population Health Management because it is ongoing and require vigilance to changes that may or may not be readily visible to anyone providing patient care.
When looking at the distinctions between Population Health vs. Public Health, you will find that there is much more involved in the management of population health, especially on the shoulders of physicians and other care professionals. This management cannot happen on paper or in simple computations, but requires a software system and data storage that is up to the challenges of all the data that is generated within a healthcare organization. As the system is molded around the dynamics of each healthcare facility and each population, the information gleaned from it will work towards keeping a population more healthy and managing care in a more efficient and effective way.