Reflecting on the recent Lumeris-sponsored webinar, “Addressing the Challenges of Population Health,” I was reminded of a quote from Modern Healthcare’s Dec. 22, 2014, issue. Speaking about Health IT, Dr. Glenn Steele, CEO and President of Geisinger Health System, said: “If people believe that you can put IT in, continue working the same you did before IT, and not get inefficiency, we are talking about double-digit IQs here.”
For years, vendors in the population health management space have been pushing technology as the solution to the inefficiency of the healthcare system. Many people believed that if you could gather the data and integrate it together, you could improve quality, cut costs and make everyone happy.
But, we are now at a point where we see that technology alone is not the answer. Areas, such as data integration or analytics, that were a concern five years ago—or even two years ago—are no longer challenges; they have become mainstream. This is not to say they are easy, but they are well understood.
Achieving success in population health management requires more than technology. It requires strategic advisory services along with the technology, understanding the impact to the people involved in healthcare, and contributing to improved outcomes resulting from the move to value-based care. We’ve seen this possibility become reality by working with some of the largest payers in the country and helping them establish or improve their care delivery, with better outcomes at reduced cost.
Success also requires enabling both provider and patient engagement through workflow and data sharing channels. For example, Lumeris currently has more than 1,000 employees, almost half of whom are software engineers, but we don’t consider ourselves to be a software company. Why? Because the other half of our team provides a broad and rich suite of healthcare services and expertise for population management and accountable care. But, we are not simply a consulting company. Why? Because we enable population health service organizations, and both technology and services are key to the success of that enablement. One area cannot be given precedence over another.
Being a technologist at heart, I did focus in on a few of the technology points made during the webinar.
First was the role of big data in the care of a patient. I have always felt that big data is the wrong term for healthcare. A better term would be “a whole lot of data.” What’s the difference? Big data to me is taking Google searches for the past three weeks and using them to determine who is going to win the next presidential election. In healthcare, it’s taking a lot of different types of data and using them to create a “picture” of the patient. For example, you may have 10 blood pressure readings, three BMIs and a long list of lab results. Combining these together to determine the best course of action around a patient is the challenge. It’s no longer gathering the data—it’s transforming the data into insights and then inserting the insights into the appropriate workflows.
A second topic from the webinar was around data sharing. In the past, the focus in population health was making data available; the basic “if you share it, they will come” approach. Technology has now provided multiple ways to deliver insights to the data consumer (be it a provider, payer or consumer), and determining the best approach needs to be part of the process. What channels will be used, such as mobile technology, and even what language the data will be presented in should be part of the data sharing strategy.
We are at a point where it’s no longer data integration— it’s process integration. Cynthia Burghard, Research Director for IDC Health Insights, mentioned the five components for strategic management of population health: Intent, People, Processes, Data and Technology. Those involved in population health management need to broaden their sights from just technology and start thinking about all five areas of strategic management. This is the only way that population health management will impact the Triple Aim Plus One and healthcare overall.