Financial Benefits of Population Health 2.0

02.23.2015

Phil Suiter

 

The first generation in population health management had a variety of “feel-good” programs—and a lot of good intentions—but it was a challenge to assess clinical and financial results. Now, the second generation of population health management is getting underway—let’s call it Population Health 2.0—driven by strong provider/employer alliances with integrated programs that are measurably improving community health and delivering impressive financial results and ROI.

Population Health 2.0 also is characterized by a proactive approach among hospitals and health systems striving to achieve a dual mission: to build healthier communities while planning strategically for the future. This second iteration in population health has a strong focus on supporting employers with strategic health and wellness initiatives that contribute to lower healthcare costs while boosting employee productivity.

Here’s why provider/employer partnerships are becoming so successful:

A more complete picture of community health. By working closely with employers, a provider organization can learn a lot about the health needs of consumers in their areas who aren’t currently its patients, and help bring those consumers into its system. Many companies have a significant number of employees—often as high as 30 percent—who do not have a primary care physician and are overdue for getting important health screenings like mammograms, physical exams, and cholesterol checks.

Actionable data to guide financial analysis. An employer-provider population health platform contains a wealth of relevant health risk information. To maintain confidentiality, only the employee and provider should be able to view individual protected health information. But the employer should receive an aggregate view of employee health trends, plus a financial analysis tool that helps identify the costs associated with various health risks and the potential savings that can be achieved as group health improves.

 Key data do not walk out the door when employers change health insurers. The first round of population health was largely entrusted to health insurers and their outsourcing partners. When employers partner directly with providers on workforce wellness initiatives, the employers do not lose access to key data when they change health insurance carriers. The provider also can use the data to develop marketing campaigns addressing the greatest health risks while building strategic service line growth.

Customized programs to fit each employer’s budget and readiness. The local hospital or health system understands the unique needs of area employers because they are all part of the same community. If obesity is a local problem, provider-employer partnerships can specifically address it. Local providers also have an understanding of an employer’s budgetary constraints and overall readiness for population health management. Some companies are just getting started, while others already have begun biometric screenings and targeted educational seminars. A few may even be ahead of the curve, with well-defined incentive programs, an online health management website, and an on-site nurse practitioner.

Incentive programs that really work. New technology platforms make it easy to engage employees, manage incentive programs, and measure their effectiveness. Web-based solutions offer employees a personalized component with tools and resources to support their health goals—even delivering targeted content tailored to their health risks and objectives. Employees can keep tabs on their incentive status and progress, access health trackers linked to activity devices, and log their diet, water intake, and exercise data.

The initial phase of population health management focused mainly on principles and concepts, and it was difficult to measure its effectiveness. Population Health 2.0 is all about proactively reaching out into the community and using technology, tools, and metrics to document real progress and effectiveness.

With this strategy, at-risk populations are becoming measurably healthier by strengthening ties with providers in their areas. Providers are gaining invaluable insight into their communities to more effectively integrate service line promotion into their strategic plans.  And employers are benefiting from lower healthcare costs, increased productivity, and happier, healthier employees.

In short, Population Health 2.0 is bending the cost curve by forging strong alliances where they matter most: in our own communities.

 

Phil Suiter is President and CEO of Aegis Health Group, Brentwood, Tenn..

 

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