How important is it to agree on principles and best practices for population health? More important than most providers believe, and here’s why: Population health can be a powerful engine for improving patient outcomes and cost performance in Value-Based Health Care.
Failure to create a standard of population health practices means that every ACO or health system scrambles independently to create initiatives, without the benefit of broader experience and results. The outcome? ACOs make similar decisions or duplicate others’ programs with meager results. They may also inadvertently consign population health to safer territory as administrative instead of strategic and innovative initiatives. Or they may adopt initiatives once used by health plans for medical management that had limited, if any, success. They may believe it’s prudent to do so; but as financial risk models expand, that weak strategy will cost providers both money and patients.
Many Providers Don’t Understand What Population Health Can Actually Accomplish
Population health is more enigmatic than it should be, because few people agree on what it means. That’s because the meaning of population health depends on who is advocating for it.
Ask any ten health care organizations or ACOs about their activities in population health, and you’ll undoubtedly find that several programs are deployed for that purpose, but with very different goals. Further complicating matters, since technology is often used to support population health, some providers view the very concept of population health as synonymous with technology and analytics instead of health care improvement. Rarely are overall initiatives organized into a set of goals for population health.