Online Portal Enhances Population Health Management Program
By Sheryl S. Jackson
Hospitals and health systems are not the only organizations focused on reducing healthcare costs and improving outcomes. Employers are also concerned about rising insurance costs, along with lost workdays when employees’ medical conditions prevent them from working. Susquehanna Health, a four-hospital integrated system in north central Pennsylvania, is launching a workplace-based population health management (PHM) program designed to identify employees at risk for medical issues and provide early intervention to minimize the risk of developing or exacerbating chronic illnesses.
The launch will begin with selective clients in the first quarter of the year, with full implementation by the end of the year. OneCommunity, a Web-based portal powered by Brentwood, TN-based Aegis Health Group, plays a key role in the support of the Healthy Partnerships program being offered to employers in Susquehanna.
Health’s market area, as well as the health system’s employees. “The portal is a PHM tool that enables usto collect health information such as biometrics and health history to identify the individual’s risk factors,” explains Chris Ray, director of referral development for Susquehanna Health. “The tool augments and supports our PHM efforts to drive the appropriate people to clinical services at the right time.” The health risk assessment component of the tool, along with information such as weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, help Susquehanna Health and employers to identify individuals with medical conditions or risk factors for development of disease – and identify them earlier than possible without medical screenings. While the focus is on health and wellness education to reduce individual risk factors, the tool can also be used to direct individuals to the Healthy Partnerships’ RN health coach or to a local physician if the person’s needs warrant a referral.
“We are able to get people to primary care physicians for monitoring and treatment earlier, reducing the costs of care and improving outcomes,” Ray says. Screenshots from the portal are seen on page 2. Health fair first step Data for each employee is initially entered by Susquehanna Health personnel at a company-sponsored health fair. It’s at this venue that the health risk assessment is completed and a cardio-check, which includes checking blood pressure and testing glucose and cholesterol levels, is performed.
“We also set up the employee with an RN health coach, who is available for ongoing education and to answer questions,” says Ray. After the OneCommunity profile is filled out, employees can access it through a secure, HIPAAcompliant, Web-based portal from home to continue checking and entering information such as blood pressure readings. Data gathered through the health risk assessments and cardio-checks will be used to customize programs for employers, says Ray. Programs can include specific classes, such as smoking cessation, exercise, and nutrition.The OneCommunity portal is also branded with Susquehanna Health’s name and the name of the employer to make it clear that the PHM program is a local not a national program, points out Debora Glennon, 2 eHealthcare Strategy & Trends February 2014 marketing director for Aegis Health Group. “Because the tool is a Webbased program there are no interoperability issues. The tool utilizes standard, importable language and offers HL7 connectivity,” she adds. Ongoing feedback to employees Susquehanna’s Healthy Partnerships program is more effective than general health education at the workplace because the online tool offers a higher level of individual engagement, notes Ray.
“Employees can track their progress as they enter data in their health portal,” he says. Users receive immediate feedback on results they enter, with suggestions to further improve their healthy behaviors. “Because we can customize OneCommunity, we have prompts that recommend a patient contact a physician or call our Health Partnerships RN health coach, who is available 24 hours a day,” Ray explains. Susquehanna Health also asks for permission to view an individual’s information. “If the permission is granted, we can set parameters to flag specific employees with whom we need to take proactive action, with the health coach contacting them,” says Ray. Ray notes that ongoing employee engagement is critical to changing behaviors that affect risk factors. The user-friendly dashboard encourages use of the portal to track results and chart progress. The portal also serves as an educational resource for employees who want information and support outside traditional classes or seminars. Offering health education in a variety of ways to meet individual needs improves the likelihood that employees will follow up with plans to change behaviors that affect their health. Employer-specific as well as communitywide reports based on the data gathered through the OneCommunity tool will be used to develop additional health education programs. “After the initial collection of data, we work with the employer to identify specific, key risk factors that can be addressed through the Healthy Partnerships program,” Ray explains. A robust actuarial feature of the tool enables Ray’s staff to compare risk mitigation efforts to actual healthcare dollars saved.
“For example, we Above: My Health Report Below: My Health Score My Health Score February 2014 eHealthcare Strategy & Trends 3 can show employers their projected healthcare dollars saved if they reduce the percentage of employees who smoke by 10 percent,” Ray says. Because employers are focused on a healthy workforce as a step toward lower healthcare costs, the ability to project actual savings is critical to acceptance of the program, he adds. While the individual employee benefits from a healthier lifestyle and the employer realizes savings in healthcare expenditures and reduced absenteeism, the health system also benefits from technology-supported population health management, points out Glennon. Not only does the portal bring Susquehanna Health into the home of a greater number of people in the community, but it also strengthens the system’s brand image in the community.
Sheryl S. Jackson is a freelance writer and editor specializing in healthcare management and marketing topics. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. eH © 2014 Health Care Communications. All rights reserved. This article is used with permission of the publisher. Visit