Can population health IT investments pay off?

Most providers think analytics tools will show quick ROI
By Mike Miliard
10:12 AM
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More and more healthcare organizations are recognizing the value of population health management – and a majority say they expect to recoup their investments in the technology to power those programs in just a few years, according to KMPG.

[See also: Population health success depends on good data]

An online poll from KPMG shows that 20 percent of respondents say investments in healthcare information technology and analytics will pay off in one to two years. A slightly bigger group (36 percent) think ROI could take up to three or four years.

The survey showed that 29 percent see the investment in population health paying off in five or more years. Only 14 percent see them not recouping their costs at all.

[See also: Analytics means we 'roll up our sleeves']

"Our clients see benefits from population health management programs as a part of the solution to reduce avoidable medical costs and variability in care," said West Johnson, a KPMG advisory partner, in a press statement. "Preventive care is given a big priority in these programs, since they deliver improvements in efficient and effective care with a high degree of patient engagement."

As accountable care models, value-based contracts and other new reimbursement evolve, providers are embracing the care coordination and predictive strategies of population health, according to KPMG – whose survey found that more than a third of respondents (36 percent) say the biggest clinical benefit derived from population health management will come from preventive care.

Developing evidenced-based clinical protocols to improve the efficiency of care was the second biggest response (23 percent) among the healthcare managers and executives surveyed, followed by managing chronic diseases (21 percent).

Still, less a quarter (24 percent) of the poll's 296 respondents consider their organization's population health management capabilities to be "mature." The largest group (38 percent) describe their capabilities as in the "elementary stages," while 23 percent classify their efforts as in their "infancy" and nearly 15 percent say their pop health capabilities are "nonexistent."

"Healthcare providers are facing a seismic shift in the coming years, largely because government and commercial payers will increasingly decline to pay for avoidable hospital visits," said Joe Kuehn, a KPMG partner with the healthcare advisory practice, in a statement.

"Providers and other participants in the care delivery system need the real time data and analytic tools to not only manage and improve the quality of care provided, but also the ability to measure costs to operate efficiently," he added.

Redesign of care management processes, more focus on evidence-based medicine and a robust change management strategy, will be key to realizing the full potential of pop health programs and speeding their ROI, he said.