Sep 03, 2015 By: frogdog

Research: Recent Trends in Population Health

Population health management is considered part of the answer to the many challenges facing health care—but there are obstacles to seeing the opportunity realized.

To develop and implement effective business strategies and plans for its clients, FrogDog continually reviews industry trends. In these articles, we share recent insights that affect key industry sectors.

Population health management—a focus on improving the health of a population or group—seeks to redefine the health care industry as a preventative solution rather than as a provider of sick care.

Toward this end, population health management aims to keep people as healthy as possible as long as possible, thereby minimizing high-cost interventional treatments that include hospitalization, treatments, and procedures.

In 2014, 86 percent of payers and 80 percent of providers planned to add to their population health management capabilities within 12 months, according to a survey by TriZetto, a health care IT company. These findings lend credence to experts’ predictions that population health management is an industry that will experience significant growth in the near future.

Key Drivers for Population Health

A number of factors have spurred the increasing popularity of population health management solutions:

  • Health policy changes: The Affordable Care Act has introduced a number of policies that focus on preventative, rather than reactive, care. Some examples include the shift from fee-for-service to value-based payment strategies and the requirement that insurance plans cover certain types of preventive procedures.
  • Increased analytics: Health care leadership has grown much more aware of the benefits of using analytics to drive decision-making—and technology has advanced enough to make the assessment and employment of data analysis truly possible. Accessible analytics tie closely into population health management considerations. For example, data analytics can assist in tracking and improving chronic disease management. Many chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, are some of the most costly but preventable health problems—and key areas of focus for population health management.
  • Focus on patient engagement: Preventive care requires patient involvement. Toward this end, providers and payers today more than ever before strive to engage patients as active participants in their health and wellness through outreach and engagement tools, including apps, portals, groups and boards, and traditional patient communication methods. Leveraging the relationship between people and their care providers can encourage people to change high-risk health behavior and make better health choices—keys to population health management.
  • Technology: A confluence of technological factors has made population health possible, from the advancement of web and mobile applications and the advent of digital data repositories and the software engines needed to analyze them, assess program effectiveness, and produce trends and recommendations. Technology has made true population health management possible, and its continued advancement will serve to further drive the advancement of population health management in turn.

Challenges to Advancing Population Health

Though a number of factors are driving increased interest in and possibilities from population health management, the industry faces a number of challenges to the field’s advancement in the near term:

  • Fragmented solutions: There’s no “right” way to solve the issue of improving a given population’s overall health. More complicating are the conflicting solutions and ideas for how to do so. Though there is no definitive correct way to manage population health, many companies market as though they have the solution.
  • Fragmented populations: Currently, organizations that approach population health management focus on different population sizes and types. For example, some solutions look at a hospital’s patient base, some address a specific condition or disease state, and others look at an entire community.
  • Diverse populations: The abundance of languages, cultures, and differences between education and income levels mean that there is no one-size-fits-all population health solution—and there may never be. Determining what works best for which groups of people will take time, trial and error, assessment, and adjustment.
  • Tracking: Employers and payers continue to seek ways to control health care costs and improve the health of employees and members. However, historical data is inconsistent across health care organizations—and some of it is no longer relevant due to changes in procedures, treatments, tests, and medications. These inconsistencies and evolutions make it challenging to measure and track the success of population health initiatives. As data analytics becomes more standardized across the industry and data repositories become cleaner and better organized, measuring population health programs will become easier—and organizations will become more open to adopting new solutions.
  • Engaging high-risk patients: Changing behavior is hard—and it’s a long-term proposition. Many population health management solutions are costly in time and money to implement, and so the value proposition of the solution often comes from the most high-risk populations—which are the ones most difficult to change. For population health management solutions to prove worth the investment, they must include effective ways to engage patients and the organizations that adopt them must have patience when it comes to seeing results—not an easy proposition in a time of belt-tightening and cost-cutting.

For further information about FrogDog’s recent research into trends in population health management, reach out to us directly.

FrogDog continually researches and monitors industry trends for its clients. Does your business know what is happening in your industry and have strategies to complement it? If not, contact us.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/freedigitalphotos.net

Posted: Sep 03, 2015
Updated: Oct 09, 2019
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