In push to population health and value-based payments, health systems look to post-acute care networks

Premier economic outlook survey finds providers grappling with challenges related to IT, supply chain integration and affiliated physicians.
By Mike Miliard
11:27 AM

The move toward population health and alternative payment models has seen providers embracing innovative approaches to care delivery, including significant investments in health information technology, according to the spring 2016 Economic Outlook survey from Premier.

The study – which polled health system chief executive officers, chief financial officers and chief operating officers – found the requirements of the Affordable Care Act and the demands of population health management leading to big changes in care processes.

Most notably, Premier found that the expansion and integration of post-acute care networks is a major priority, cited by 95 percent of C-suite respondents as a key area of focus over the next three years.

At the same time, almost as many execs said that project is the biggest challenge their health systems will face in the coming years.

"As healthcare continues to transition from an acute-care hospital focus toward an integrated system of providers, the creation of high-value post-acute care networks is essential for success within alternative payment models, such as bundled payment programs and accountable care organizations," Premier COO Michael Alkire said in a statement.

Health IT, of course, is an essential enabler to this task, and 84 percent of respondents indicated that technology continues to represent a place for significant capital outlay.

Still, challenges remain. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of respondents said their health systems are successfully accessing data from the ambulatory EHRs of their employed physicians. But barely one-third (38 percent) said that they're successfully accessing data from affiliated or non-employed physician networks.

"Many affiliated practices lack the proper incentives to invest in high-cost data sharing agreements and interoperable interfaces. We urgently need public policies that require health IT interoperability standards so that providers can access data from any system," said Alkire.

Interestingly, one area that's often overlooked with regard to pop health is one that's also ripe for innovation, according to Premier: the supply chain.

Many providers are running disparate software systems to track procurement, accounting and contract management, according to the report – leading to "system-wide blind spots" that can hamper efficiency efforts.

The expansion of affiliated practices have only complicated matters, according to more than half of poll respondents.

"By marrying all the functions associated with purchasing across the continuum on a single IT platform, materials managers can close gaps and generate the significant savings needed to succeed in the new world of payment reform and cost cuts," said Alkire.