Experts see potential in population health management, but obstacles remain

August 11, 2015

Population health management holds great potential for improving healthcare and lowering costs, but obstacles still need to be overcome is the takeaway from a panel of healthcare experts in a Google hangout videoconference.

Population health management holds great potential for improving health outcomes and lowering costs, but significant obstacles still need to be overcome before the concept is implemented.

That was the consensus of a panel of healthcare experts convened by Midas+, a healthcare products and consulting subsidiary of Xerox, in a recent Google hangout videoconference. The videoconference was moderated by Justin Lanning, senior vice president and managing director of Midas+.

The videoconference was a follow-up to a Midas+ symposium on population health management held in May. Virtually all of 35 C-level hospital executives surveyed at that event either “strongly” or “somewhat” agreed that population health management is a necessity because the U.S. is shifting to more value-based healthcare reimbursement and delivery models.

“Population health management is important because we’re spending too much on healthcare and not getting good outcomes,” said Bernadette Keefe, MD, a social media in healthcare & medicine consultant said during the Google hangout discussion. To address that, physicians need a much better understanding of what’s going on in patients’ lives so as to deliver optimal treatment. “And we need a much better handle on our patients before we’re able to do that,” she said.

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Healthcare reporter Dan Munro noted that the nation is on track to spend more than $10,000 per person on healthcare in 2015. “We spend far too much for the outcomes we get, and we’re still leaving 30 million people uninsured” despite the passage of the Affordable Care Act,” he said.

Deryk Van Brunt, senior vice president and general manager, community health for Midas+ cited an example from San Francisco where population health data has had a significant impact. City officials there saw that many hospital emergency department (ED) admissions were among homeless individuals with alcohol abuse issues. The officials were able to use admissions data to identify specific neighborhoods from which many of those admitted were coming from.

The city responded by establishing a “medical respite and sobering center,” to which victims of alcohol abuse could be taken instead of hospital EDs, at far less a cost per-patient. “It has been a 10 to one return on investment and people are getting better served on discharge because it has caseworkers to help them with the broader set of issues having to do with homelessness.

“This is an example of looking broadly at the community and instigating top-down, systemic change,” he said.

Janice McCallum, managing director of the consulting firm Health Content Advisors, noted that physician reluctance to share information with patients poses another obstacle to population health management. “Evidence has shown that sharing information leads to better self-care and outcomes,” she said. “But there’s still a lot of reluctance to give information to patients out of fear they won’t understand it.”