In a recent post, we addressed the many types of population health initiatives and some guidelines for creating the most benefit. Now let’s take a closer look at one of those guidelines: integrating population health into regular or routine care of patients—specifically, with greater involvement and communication by the patients’ physicians.
ACOs and their participating physicians have an opportunity to break with the historical obstacles between the physician’s employer organization and the physician, especially in hospital-directed ACOs. Even in physician-led ACOs, working seamlessly with physicians to achieve better health for ACO patients is key to achieving both quality and cost goals. Either way, the movement toward financial risk will compel ACOs to use efficient mechanisms like population health to ensure changes across the patient base, rather than duplicate efforts one patient at a time. Population health will also be the key program for driving changes in outcomes in populations with difficult, socially-determined health issues.
So, how should population health be implemented to achieve goals for patients? Even though population health is the standard bearer of Value-Based Health Care, it remains an obscure concept for most physicians, largely because population health technology and initiatives have sidelined physicians and their interactions with patients. Physicians aren’t even universally sure about what population health means, nor what role they are supposed to play.