By Keith Algozzine, PA-C, CEO, UCM Digital Health
An essential part of being a healthcare provider, in any capacity, is understanding population health management. This discipline offers a window into the health of a selected population and helps providers understand how a particular demographic is influenced through key indicators such as geography, genetics, medical history, and socioeconomic factors.
In addition to narrowing the focus on specific clinical issues, applying population health strategies can help to address inequities and improve health outcomes.
Putting population health strategies into practice is faced with numerous inherent systemic challenges.
- Monitoring and tracking chronic illness rates and outcomes over large and diverse populations
- Processing multiple data points simultaneously from multiple source points
- Identifying high-risk patients, risk stratification, and grouping by specific, clinical conditions, co-morbidities, or predictive risk models
Additionally, looming over the entire healthcare industry is the growing physician shortage and the fact that hospital employment is expected to decrease by almost 96,000 employees in about two years.
Digital solutions are emerging as a much-needed approach to maximize the utilization of available resources, meet the growing need to meet patients in a virtual setting, and streamline demanding workflow. They can streamline implementation and enable quicker, easier outreach to targeted populations. They can enable improved patient care and community outreach. Digital solutions can also support data integration and interoperability for a more complete view of the patient, can assist with targeted patient outreach, and can allow results and outcomes to be monitored and tracked.
Benefitting patients, providers, and the community
Regardless of how a healthcare organization addresses population health strategies, at its core, it involves collaboration between leaders in healthcare and the community. Factors that make up the complete picture of individual and population health span health behaviors, for example, tobacco use, diet and exercise, and alcohol and drug use as well as access to care and quality of care.
Organizations need be able to prioritize, process, and integrate a multitude of data sources, data sources to provide better transparency into the population’s health history and health journey. This transparency helps better manage networks, risks, opportunities, and strategies to improve health efficiently.
Effective population health strategies will allow for better patient management and care by enhancing communication with the patient, coordinating care, lowering health and other risks, and processing and aggregating data. The end goal for population health is to enhance the outcomes and quality of care while managing costs. Digital solutions and technologies are emerging as valuable tools to make this a reality.
Now an integral part of our daily lives, digital technology connects every aspect of our world. Innovation, especially in the digital ecosystem, is occurring rapidly. Nevertheless, there is an immense opportunity to improve various populations’ well-being through digital health solutions.
The increasingly widespread implementation of digital tools in healthcare is due, by and large, to its convenience and the belief that it can reduce costs while improving access to care, especially for underserved populations and residents of rural areas. Digital health solutions are a capable tool for public and population health for a number of reasons:
- Potential impact to reach underserved and hard to reach populations
- Rise in prevalence and acceptance as a standard of quality, accessible patient care
- Influence on the provider-patient relationship
Digital solutions are poised to evolve and play an increased and essential role in supporting holistic clinical and healthcare operations, including in implementing effective population health strategies. While delivering proven benefits today, their potential to shape the future holds boundless potential. It helps lay the foundation to usher in new efficiencies, lower costs, and a structure that educates, engages, and empowers patients.