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Three Key Capabilities to Manage Population Health

Posted on April 7, 2015 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Marc Willard, President of Transcend Insights.
Marc Willard - Trascend Insights
The health care industry’s transition from fee-for-service to value-based reimbursement models demands a dramatic shift in how medical information is used and shared. The ability to generate a single, comprehensive patient view from an individual’s acute care, ambulatory care and wellness data is vital to support this transition. Ten years ago, the technology to move data out of silos to create real-time, physician-friendly, patient-centered population health management (PHM) systems was simply not available.

Fast-forward to 2015, where recent technological breakthroughs are fueling a new era in PHM that promises to help patients achieve their best health while allowing health care systems to create population health platforms that reward value, improve outcomes and reduce costs. For PHM vendors to successfully navigate this profound shift in the health care industry and provide actionable insights on an individual’s complete health care and health status, they need to deliver three key technologies:

  • Community-wide interoperability;
  • Real-time health care analytics; and
  • Intuitive care tools.

Community-Wide Interoperability

In developing a successful PHM system, one of the greatest challenges is working with disparate electronic health record systems that are not designed to communicate with each other, consequently keeping patient data entrenched in silos. Nothing is more frustrating for health care systems, physicians and care teams than dealing with multiple views and logins that impede the flow of information.

For PHM vendors to be successful, they must offer sophisticated health information exchange technology that integrates both clinical and claims data from diverse sources into a single, comprehensive patient view. Recent advances in cloud-based interoperability technology allow health care systems, physicians and care teams to literally get on the “same (electronic) page” with their patients’ complete health care history and real-time treatment strategies.

Interestingly, for health information exchange technology to successfully meet the needs of PHM, we must think beyond traditional electronic health record system interoperability. In addition to integrating data from health information generated outside the four walls of the hospital in ambulatory settings, successful PHM companies will be able to incorporate the valuable insights generated from the latest wearable health technologies that track activity levels, heart rate and other health information into a single, comprehensive patient view. This patient engagement is crucial in the new value-based reimbursement environment, with its focus on wellness and preventive medicine. PHM companies must know how to capture it and deliver meaningful insights to physicians and care teams without overwhelming them.

Several capabilities are required to ensure successful PHM, including bi-directional semantic interoperability, master patient indexing, both clinical and claims data capture and integration, real-time information sharing, results distribution and order processing, care and consent management tools, and of course privacy and security.

Another aspect that is crucial for interoperability is unobstructed access to patient information within traditional silos, so that data can truly be shared. Allowing data to flow requires open systems and interoperability standards that are clean, and widely and easily adopted.

Real-Time Health Care Analytics

A strong PHM tool combines community-wide interoperability with real-time health care analytics capabilities. Effective health care analytics should be able to identify evidence-based gaps in care, drug safety concerns and other opportunities for health improvement while ensuring compliance with the latest clinical guidelines and national quality measures to maximize reimbursement.

Yet the true value in health care analytics is the ability to deliver these insights quickly and simply at the point of care. Every minute counts in health care delivery, and even a five-minute delay in processing information is unacceptable during an office visit, as the physician needs to move on to his or her next patient in a timely manner.

Rather than processing health care data in batch mode, over hours or days, a real-time analysis engine should process data in milliseconds. This enables more informed decisions at the point of care to further ensure that every individual can achieve his or her best health. Physicians now have the ability to take a longitudinal view of how these analytic insights contribute to their patients’ past, present and future health.

Effective real-time health care analytics also allows physicians and care teams to compare an individual’s health status against population benchmarks. By doing so, they can track clinical trends such as readmission rates to further support intervention strategies, reduce risk and decrease costs.

Intuitive Care Tools

Physicians and care teams are more willing to utilize real-time insights generated by sophisticated analytics if they can be easily accessed in a matter of seconds, with just one or two clicks. Even more useful is mobile technology that provides a single, comprehensive view at the physician’s fingertips.

When developing intuitive care tools, PHM vendors should consult directly with physicians to better match and accommodate their unique information needs. For example, offering physicians access to comprehensive clinical trends across a population provides vital insights. When equipped with this information, physicians can improve care delivery through proactive interventions that create meaningful change.

Getting patients involved in the health care equation is equally important when developing intuitive care tools. For example, real-time insights available via mobile point of care solutions allow physicians to maintain eye contact with their patients, have a more meaningful discussion and improve the overall patient experience. As a result, mobile point of care solutions can help physicians encourage their patients to become active participants in their own health, for example, increasing a patient’s medication adherence to help with reducing readmissions.

In addition, once we understand a patient’s total health status and health care needs, physicians and care teams can recommend customized wellness programs that directly address current or future health care concerns. Patient engagement tools as well as a single, comprehensive consumer view can help empower individuals to take control of their own lifestyle choices. For example, smoking cessation classes, nutrition counseling or exercise programs, can help keep individuals healthy and minimize the need for medical interventions.

Keep the Focus on the Patient

With the movement from fee-for-service to value-based reimbursement models, the demand has never been greater for population health management systems that accomplish the industry’s triple aim: improving population health, enhancing the patient experience and reducing costs.

PHM vendors can simplify this transition by developing platforms that offer community-wide interoperability, real-time health care analytics and intuitive care tools. The health IT industry’s transformation must continue to be centered on the patient, whose health and well-being remain the focus of today’s population health management initiatives.

About Marc Willard
Marc Willard is the president of Transcend Insights, a wholly owned subsidiary of Humana Inc., dedicated to simplifying population health. The company, which launched in March 2015, represents the merging of three leading health care information technology businesses: Certify Data Systems, Anvita Health and nliven systems. For more information about Transcend Insights, visit:

Mobile Health to Transform Care: The Case for Adoption Now – Breakaway Thinking

Posted on February 18, 2015 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Todd Stansfield from The Breakaway Group (A Xerox Company). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.
Todd Stansfield
Mobile health (mHealth) is here to stay, and you don’t have to look far for proof. Patients now use mHealth to comparison shop basic healthcare services and access test results. Providers use it to increase efficiencies and lower costs. And CIOs use it to get more out of an electronic health record (EHR) while juggling new security challenges from the bring your own device (BYOD) movement.

Perhaps one of mHealth’s greatest areas of impact is providers’ bottom line. A new study finds that baby boomers and millennials prefer providers who incorporate mobile technology into their practices. Seven percent of patients responded that they are willing to leave their current provider for one who offers remote care, a move that could have a significant financial impact on independent physician practices. This is especially clear when considering that an overall 20 percent of patients reported seeing the same doctor for less than 2 years and 14 percent reported not having a doctor. Additionally, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is now offering providers roughly $42 a month to manage care for Medicare patients with two or more chronic conditions in its Chronic Care Management program. These patients comprise two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries. For practices with 20 eligible patients, that figure translates to over $10,000 per provider per year. Providers must use mHealth to meet some requirements of Chronic Care Management, such as offering 24-7 access to consultation, and companies are now creating technologies to help. Just last month, Qualcomm and Walgreens announced a joint venture to pair medical devices with mobile and web apps to provide remote patient monitoring and transitional care support.

And then there’s efficiency. Another study finds that “the average hospital loses $1.7 million per year due to inefficient care coordination,” according to a HealthIT Analytics article. Providers are finding mobile technology valuable for improving health information exchange and communication, areas underserved by current EHR systems. More providers are text messaging care information rather than communicating face-to-face with colleagues, resulting in more informed care teams and fewer avoidable healthcare errors. Providers are also using mobile devices to enhance real-time patient engagement rather than relying on cumbersome computers to document in the EHR. Often the result is improved patient care, shorter appointments, and more time to see more patients. And besides getting in and out of their provider’s office sooner, patients are also welcoming new efficiencies with real-time access to their medical records via smartphone, a selling point among younger generations pursuing an active role in their care. In a recent survey of Americans, millennials indicated a preference for patient portals that they can access via a smartphone or tablet.

Yet providers should plan carefully when implementing mHealth, as there are major costs for failing to set up robust infrastructures that support safe mobile use. Providers should perform security risk analysis to ensure the safety of protected health information (PHI). This includes evaluating the security of all mobile devices—tablets and smartphones—ensuring that each device stores, sends, and receives PHI securely using encryption and other methods. Providers must perform this analysis routinely to receive payments under Meaningful Use (MU) and to prevent the ever-growing number of data breaches. Data security has remained a chief concern for healthcare providers and leaders and has largely stifled the widespread adoption of mHealth. This may change as the Department of Health & Human Services plans to offer more guidance to mHealth developers and users for adhering to HIPAA rules, as it recently announced.

Providers must adopt mHealth to survive in today’s competitive marketplace. Not only will they reap the short-term benefits of higher revenues through Chronic Care Management and attracting new patients, but they will also build the secure infrastructure and tools needed for long-term success. mHealth will be critical to population health and health information exchange, two eventual destinations for the healthcare industry. Providers who adopt mHealth now will be ready for when our industry makes the complete shift toward a population-focused, value-based care model.

In my experience at The Breakaway Group, A Xerox Company, effective adoption begins when leaders engage their workforce in the vision and mission of the project; when education is focused, accessible, and targeted; when performance is measured, collected, and analyzed; and when adoption is sustained amid changing technologies and process improvements. For providers to make the transition successfully healthcare leaders must find and implement technologies that patients and providers want to use. They must provide education that is convenient, focused, and practical for providers, education that spans not only how to optimize the technology but also how to use it safely and in accordance with government regulations. Healthcare leaders must also track performance in quality and efficiency, and highlight areas for improvement. And lastly, they must ensure all efforts are sustained, reinforced, and tailored to changing needs.

mHealth is poised to transform healthcare. It’s no wonder that mHealth raised $1.2 billion in venture capital last year, or more than triple what it raised in 2013. I’d venture to say that a significant share of new patients, new revenues, and new efficiencies will be earned by providers who are going “mobile.”

Xerox is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts.

EHR Adoption: Step One to Successful Population Health Management – Breakaway Thinking

Posted on June 18, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Todd Stansfield from The Breakaway Group (A Xerox Company). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.
Todd Stansfield

The Managed Care movement dramatically transformed healthcare in the 1990s. For the first time, our industry discovered increased margins by conserving the services we provided. Now, Population Health Management (PHM) is on the brink of transforming healthcare yet again—and perhaps in a more dramatic fashion. The transformation is already underway, with industry-wide consolidations between hospital networks, physician practices, and even insurance companies; government reforms targeting cost and quality controls; and new breeds of health organizations, professionals, and technologies.

Today’s PHM movement presents the same cost benefit as healthcare’s traditional models with a greater focus on health outcomes. The philosophy behind PHM is that healthcare providers and organizations will save money and improve care by identifying and stratifying patients with high, medium, and low risk for developing chronic conditions. Once patients are assigned a level of risk, care plans are then developed and deployed to treat them appropriately. For high-risk patients, strategic interventions are provided that reduce hospital admissions, readmissions, and complications. For low-risk patients, preventative care is offered to maintain health and avoid costly conditions. The PHM model requires broad-scale data collection, analysis, and transmission between healthcare entities—the latter not yet possible with the lack of integration between electronic health record (EHR) systems. PHM also calls for redesigning processes, discovering gaps in care, and extending patient-provider interactions beyond clinical events to encourage healthy life behaviors.

In order to reach the level of data collection needed for successful PHM, healthcare organizations must first adopt their EHR. Doing so makes it possible to intercept data, analyze it, and transform it into useful clinical information delivered to the point of care. Without EHR adoption, the most foundational elements of PHM cannot be supported: We cannot efficiently discover gaps in our current care, identify and stratify at-risk patients treated by an organization, or improve our processes to lessen the new financial risks of value-based care. EHRs are so central to PHM that overlapping incentives for both initiatives were proposed in November 2011 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The technology is also a necessary tool for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), which are a form of PHM. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) published an interview with Dr. Stephen Shortell, a Distinguished Professor of Health Policy and Management at the University of California, who outlined aspects of EHR adoption as being essential to the success of ACOs.[“The State of Accountable Care Organizations.”The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.]

Our research at The Breakaway Group (TBG) points to four crucial components needed to adopt an EHR for PHM. Strong leadership must inspire continual engagement from users to embrace the EHR as a tool for positive change. Targeted and effective education—creating system proficiency in role-based tasks—must also be established before and after the EHR go-live event. Performance must be gauged, measured, and analyzed to enhance EHR use and establish governance measures. And with the evolutionary nature of the EHR, all optimization efforts must be sustained and refreshed to meet new challenges, such as application upgrades and process changes.

Although the PHM movement is relatively new, there are numerous examples of the model’s success. ACOs enrolled in CMS’s Shared Savings and Pioneer ACO programs have generated $380 million in savings.[“Medicare’s delivery system reform initiatives achieve significant savings and quality improvements – off to a strong start.” US Department of Health and Human Services.] One Pioneer ACO, Partners HealthCare, has established patient-centered medical homes that employ Care Managers specializing in customizing patient care plans.[“Patient-centered Medical Home: Role of the Care Manager.” Partners HealthCare.] While Partners HealthCare is not employing true PHM in the sense of sharing information with other healthcare entities, it is large enough in size to perform broad-scale data collection that can help better manage health populations. This example demonstrates the potential effect of PHM on our industry when data becomes transferrable.

EHR adoption is an essential feat we are capable of achieving now. Doing so is the first step toward learning more about the populations we serve, how we’re not serving them, and how we can adjust our processes to succeed in a value-based model. Yet to manage populations effectively, more is required from us, including being willing to work together in our pursuit of a better, brighter healthcare system. If we can overcome these hurdles now, then we will arrive ready for when our industry is capable of embracing true care coordination.

Xerox is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts.

Population Health Management (PHM) – The New Health IT Buzzword

Posted on May 6, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

For some reason in healthcare IT we like to go through a series of buzzwords. They rotate through the years, but usually have a very similar meaning. The best example is EMR and EHR. You could nuance a difference between the two terms, but in practice they both are used interchangeably and we all know what it means.

With this in mind, I was intrigued by an excerpt from Cora Sharma’s post on Financial Analytics Bleeding into Population Health Management:

It appears that “population health management” (PHM) just has a better ring to it than “accountable care” or “HMO 2.0”. Increasingly, PHM is becoming an umbrella term for all of the operational and analytical HIT tools needed for the transition to value-based reimbursement (VBR), including EHR, HIE, Analytics, Care Management, revenue cycle management (RCM), Supply Chain, Cost Accounting, … .

On the other hand, HIT vendors continue to define PHM according to their core competencies: claims-based analytics vendors see PHM in terms of risk management; care management vendors are assuming that PHM is their next re-branded marketing term; clinical enterprise data warehouse (EDW) and business intelligence (BI) vendors argue that a single source of truth is needed for PHM; HIE and EHR vendors talk about PHM in the same breath as care coordination, leakage alerts and clinical quality measures (CQM); and so on.

Cora is right. Population Health Management does seem to be the latest buzzword and for some reason feels better to people than accountable care. I guess it makes sense. People don’t want to be held accountable for anything. However, they love to help a population be healthy.

Coming out of 30+ meetings with vendors at HIMSS this year I was asking myself a similar question. What’s the difference between an HIE, healthcare analytics, business intelligence, data warehouses (EDW) and even many of the financial RCM products? I see them all coming together into one platform. I guess it will be called population health management.

To Cora’s broader point in the post, there is a real coming together that’s happening between clinical and financial data in healthcare. All I can think is that it’s about time. The division of the data never really made sense to me. The data should be one and available to whatever system needs the data. ACOs are going to drive this to become a reality.