Population health management is one of the hottest topics in healthcare right now, but many people don’t really understand what it is. In this blog article, we explain the basics of population health management and how it can improve healthcare outcomes for you and your employees.
What Is Population Health Management?
Population health management is a response to the escalating costs of American healthcare. It aims to improve patient outcomes and decrease costs by using data to guide medical decisions — empowering primary care physicians and engaging patients and communities.
Data-Based Medical Decisions
Too frequently, employees avoid visiting their doctor for routine care. Instead, they schedule appointments when they’re desperately in need of medical care, either due to a nasty cold, severe pain, or other troubling symptoms. By that point, many of them need costly medical care to stabilize what would have been a preventable, or at least minor, condition.
With a population health management system, you actively compile biometric and health data from your employees. (Many employers incentivize biometric testing with healthcare discounts.) This data can help you identify health risks in your workforce and refer them to a physician for preventive treatment.
Increasingly, this data is shared among medical providers who are building best practices for specific at-risk populations. Many healthcare organizations are tying physician payments to metrics based on these best practices, encouraging physicians to focus on preventive care and long-term health.
Empowering Primary Care Physicians
Coordinated care is a hallmark of population health management. In this system, your primary care physician isn’t just a referral source — he or she acts as the CEO of your healthcare team. Your doctor will manage your care by:
- Monitoring your general health and identifying risk factors that might impact your long-term health
- Connecting you to the right clinicians, specialists, and other providers
- Directing your care and ensuring that all providers have access to your complete medical history
- Limiting unnecessary and expensive treatment through proactive healthcare and continuity of care
And because physician payments are tied to patient success, doctors have an elevated interest in proactive, patient-focused care.
Engaging Patients and Communities
No matter how good your IT systems and primary care physicians are, they’re useless unless you have engaged patients and communities. Population health management recognizes that many employees and communities face obstacles when accessing healthcare. Rather than ignore these hurdles, a population health management system identifies and addresses them.
For example, poverty and cultural barriers can limit an employee’s access to healthcare, even if he or she has insurance. When a health organization addresses these issues by offering transportation assistance, bicultural medical providers, translators, or healthcare expense education, more people are empowered to access the care they need and deserve.
Patient and community outreach might involve:
- Language and culture-specific materials and care plans
- Offering patient mentors from a similar demographic
- Identifying healthcare facilities that are easily accessible (within the community or on public transportation lines)
- Lists of community resources that members might access
- Being transparent about medical expenses
- Collaborating with nurse case managers, social workers, and community resource specialists
- Hosting community events that focus on healthcare and preventive medicine (especially when tailored to the needs and values of the targeted population
Rather than focus on one-size-fits-some solutions, these programs target at-risk populations and encourage early involvement in the healthcare system.
How Can Population Health Management Improve Employee Wellness?
Your employees each have their personal struggles, priorities, and perspectives. Studies show employee wellness systems that use population health management tools are effective at controlling preventable conditions and improving employee health. In a 2013 study, researchers concluded that population health management programs will typically yield a positive return-on-investment within two years of launch, resulting in a $3 savings for each dollar invested.
Additionally, improved employee health can improve workplace productivity by reducing workers’ compensation claims, absenteeism, and presenteeism, while improving employee engagement.
Canopy Health: Leaders in Transparent, Coordinated Healthcare
Canopy Health offers refreshingly clear, human care to our members. We focus on price transparency, local access to high-quality physicians, and well-coordinated care. This combination gives our members and their employers streamlined access to excellent medical care across eight Bay Area counties at fair price points.
Grossmeier, J., Seaverson, E.L., Mangen, D.J., Wright, S., Dalal, K, Phalen, C., Gold, D.B. (2013, June). Impact of a comprehensive population health management program on health care costs. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23722943