Answers for a Healthier World

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Depending upon who you ask, population health may not be too popular. Some of the apprehension concerning population health concerns stems from the ability for Big Data to provide actionable insights that improve the level of care. Additionally, some apprehension around population health comes from the fear of a disconnect between quality care and financial success under new reimbursement models.

These and other concerns underscore the need for health organizations and healthcare leaders to pay careful attention when approaching population health, particularly from an IT perspective. The Big Data fears, for example, are not unique to healthcare or population health. The finance sector grappled with the need to extract actionable intelligence from Big Data only to find, for the most part, that success lies more in proper process and planning rather than in new tools and technology.

600-Pop-Health-BLOG-1200px-B.pngEchoing the need to properly prepare for population health within the healthcare industry is Leidos Chief Cybersecurity Technologist, Gib Sorebo, whom recently stated in a blog that despite the potential benefits resulting from the exchange of personal data of patient care coming out of population health, this transaction presents a potential “nightmare for cybersecurity professionals if not done correctly.”

Sorebo acknowledges that the need to approach population health from an IT security aspect should be predicated on starting small and testing a lot, as well as paying particular attention on integration. “Much of this anticipated interaction among EHRs and related systems is unproven at any scale. The more connections there are; the more complexity and the risk.  Community hospitals can kick things off by inviting medical practices to participate in pilot programs exchanging patient data and working collaboratively to close the inevitable cybersecurity holes that arise. While the hospital should not dictate standards unilaterally, most practices will look to hospitals for leadership,” Sorebo said.

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 Sorebo’s comments uncover the need for healthcare organizations to do three things, from an operational perspective, in order to gain success with population health:

  1. Achieve buy-in from the top: It’s vital to engage the leadership so that they acknowledge that successful population health management means long-term investment in information technology, people, and partnerships. This entails a cultural change that they must lead.
  2. Unite IT and clinical leaders: Once the executives are on-board and understand their roles in this transformative endeavor, health organizations then need to turn their attention to getting IT and clinical leaders to collaborate on solutions that drive change, measurable improvements and results. Too often these two teams operate in vacuums and don’t understand each other. For population health management to be impactful, this must change.
  3. Communicate Often, Early and Everywhere: Communication is commonly the last item to be addressed. In healthcare, however, where the ecosystem is so huge and diverse, communication planning and execution must be one of the first completed activities and has to be geared mainly on identifying and engaging each stakeholder.

Population health may not be popular to everyone. But by engaging leadership, uniting teams and communicating effectively, the outcomes can achieve the desired results of ultimately improving the level and quality of care for patients across the United States.

Sarah Shillington has more than 20 years of solid healthcare IT experience with particular expertise in developing strategy and tactics in the areas of executive level operations, professional services, consulting, and account management. She has more than 16 years of EHR services implementation experience, providing strong and effective leadership to clients and partners. She has assisted over 70 EHR installations and is the recipient of McKesson’s prestigious Pinnacle Award for innovation in early customer distance learning programs