Top 6 population health programs hospitals are undertaking today

Healthcare organizations are using electronic health records, patient portals, patient engagement systems and telemedicine tech to boost specific styles of population health initiatives, HIMSS Analytics said.
By Bill Siwicki
01:27 PM
population health HIMSS Analytics

The number of healthcare organizations with population health initiatives has grown year over year from 67 percent in 2015 to 76 percent in 2016, according to a new study from HIMSS Analytics.

While the number of programs is moving in the right direction as value-based care models become more prominent across the industry, there still is work to be done in sustaining these programs and improving population outcomes on a broader scale, according to the September 2016 study, entitled “HIMSS Analytics Essentials Brief: 2016 Population Health.”

To boost population health efforts, healthcare organizations are using a variety of healthcare information technologies. According to the study, 89 percent are using electronic health records as part of their population health efforts, 76 percent are using patient portals, 76 percent are using patient engagement systems and 65 percent are using telemedicine technologies.

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“The level of interest in population health initiatives and the employment of population health programs is certainly becoming more widespread across the healthcare landscape,” said Brendan FitzGerald, director of HIMSS Analytics. “Based on the study results, there are six initiative areas that are currently shaping population health.” 

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The first initiative area is chronic disease management, where healthcare organizations manage populations of patients with such diseases as diabetes and COPD. Healthcare organizations with these types of population health efforts in place went from 83 percent in 2015 to 77 percent in 2016. Some amount of a percentage drop can be attributed to a difference in the number of healthcare organizations studied from year to year (197 in 2015 and 104 in 2016), HIMSS Analytics said.

The second area is wellness and preventive health, where organizations promote workplace health, school health, weight loss and smoking cessation to improve overall health and deter more serious conditions from occurring. This initiative category dropped from 79 percent in 2015 to 72 percent in 2016.

The third initiative area is clinically integrated networks. This model of care is a health network of provider organizations that use protocols to improve care, lower costs and increase value to a particular market. About half of organizations in the 2016 study with population health initiatives in place leverage this model of care, a figure in line with the 2015 study.

The fourth area for population health initiatives is the patient-centered medical home, or PCMH.

“PCMH typically is defined as a model of primary care that delivers core functions that partners patients and physicians and focuses on acute, chronic and preventative care that is coordinated and integrated across multiple sites with health quality and safety in mind,” FitzGerald said. “Care across the continuum could be proving to be difficult as roughly 50 percent of organizations in the study indicated they utilize this model of care in 2015 and 2016.”

The fifth area is at-risk payment structures. These structures – such as accountable care organizations, Medicare Shared Savings Program, bundled payment, employer contracts – are focused on the clinical aspect of healthcare to help the industry transition from volume-based care to a value-based system by sharing risk.

“An increase in this category from 2015 to 2016 indicates the organizational shift to value-based payment models, but significant gains could take some time as organizations build out their population health programs,” FitzGerald said.

And the sixth area of population health initiatives is at-risk cost structure, which include Medicare Advantage plans, Medicaid managed care, commercial plan and self-insured employee plans. This initiative area grew from about 17 percent in 2015 to 19 percent in 2016, the study said.

Helpful advice for planning to purchase a population health platform:

⇒ Experts explain what to look for when choosing a population health platform
⇒ Comparison chart of 8 population health products 
⇒ An in-depth look at 8 population health software programs

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