6 Tips to Navigate the Population Health Jungle at HIMSS16

Guest post by Linda Lockwood, solutions director and service line owner, health solutions, CTG.

Linda Lockwood, RN, MBA, PCMH CCE
Linda Lockwood

With HIMSS 2016 fast approaching, the hunt for the perfect Population Health tool will be underway. Whether you’re a HIMSS veteran or a first-time attendee, expect to be caught in a jungle of vendors, each promising the latest and greatest Population Health tools.

HIMSS seems to grow each year, and with so many vendors, solutions and offerings, and the buzz happening during the event, it can be a challenge to carefully evaluate Population Health tools to help inform a decision.

HIMSS can make you excited for the future of your organization, but can also be overwhelming with so many Population Health options to consider. These six tips can help you separate fact from fiction and select a tool that best meets the population health needs of your organization:

Identify organizational goals for population health and match your tool choice to those goals: It’s important to understand what your organizational goals are, as they will drive the selection of tools. If you have not entered into risk bearing agreements, but want to be prepared, perhaps you may want to start off with a tool that supports development of registries and profiles physician performance. You will also want to identify your high risk, high cost patients, and be sure you have the ability to track this performance over time. This information may be available from your financial systems, but you also will need to have the ability to drill down to the device, and supply level—as well as use of medications and supplies including blood products—to identify opportunities for improvement.

How does joining an ACO impact your decision? If you have plans to join an ACO, your needs may include the ability to perform Care Management and Care Coordination and Patient Engagement. You will want to be sure that there is interoperability between the hospital, physician offices and care managers as well as the payers. Reporting becomes critical with an ACO as certain metrics must be reported on a regular basis. As you evaluate tools, ask if they have pre-build reports that include some of the standard measures that a MSSP requires, as well as CMS.

Think about mergers and acquisitions: If you are in the process of a merger or acquiring physicians, you must ensure whatever tool you include has the ability to aggregate data from multiple EHRs and formulate a plan to support interoperability for sharing and exchanging key data. If you are self insured, your organization will have access to data about your population. If you are focusing on wellness and prevention, you will want tools to support patient engagement, health and wellness. Alternately, if have high risk patients, you require Population Health tools to support care coordination, outreach, pharmacy and lab adherence and wellness reminders.

Make data quality a priority: The ability to have accurate, reliable data is crucial with any Population Health or reporting tool. If a data governance system is in place, it’s important to understand what source data you will need to populate the tool. Be sure you know where key data is entered in the system and the common values for that data. In tandem with this, the organization should identify data stewards and business owners. Data governance must have organization-wide commitment, and business owners who are actively engaged.

Get a good grasp on reporting: Reporting is critical functionality with any Population Health Tool. The ability to have accurate dashboards with drill down capabilities is critical, and requires the organization to identify the data needed and ensure it is aligned with KPIs. Vendors may come with canned tools for reporting. In gaining an understanding of these tools, organizations must assess if they are adaptable. If they don’t meet their needs, make sure you understand what the cost and time frame is to do so.

Understand Your Vendor’s Population Health Strategy: Understanding the roadmap for your EHR vendor around Population Health functionality is a central factor when evaluating tools. While many vendors have developed a Population Health tool, all are certainly not equal. Some may not comprehensive enough for your organization’s needs.

Considering some of the following questions can help determine if your vendor’s tool is a fit:

Entering HIMSS with these tips in mind and a complete understanding of how a Population Health tool must work to support your organization can help you focus your evaluation during the conference, and find the right vendor for current and future needs.

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