Population health initiatives focus on the health and outcomes of groups of patients. They can be defined by many variables or combinations of variables, including geography, ethnicity, health or physical characteristics or conditions, employment, or effectively any other differentiating factor. Dependent upon available data, population health programs seek to correlate health information with other variables to help drive better preventative care, in addition to helping deliver more efficient and effective outcomes.
Connected health solutions will play a key role in delivering the many benefits population health programs are expected to provide, including:
*Increased access to quality care
*More informed care and treatment
*Higher levels of patient engagement
*A more agile healthcare system
*Reduced healthcare costs
Many factors contribute to the need for a transformation in how healthcare is addressed, including an aging population and growing number of chronic diseases cases, a shortage of healthcare professionals, skyrocketing costs, and an increasing desire for the elderly to “age in place.” In order to address all of these needs, healthcare providers will need to adopt new data-driven models that leverage connected health technologies to help patients better manage their own health, reduce costs related to unnecessary hospitalizations and un-diagnosed conditions, reduce physician burnout, and generally create a healthier society.
Online patient portals offer an opportunity for patients to connect easily and more frequently with their physicians. By updating their records, patients not only become more engaged in their own health, they are able to add to the data pools that are key to understanding population health. Portals may show patient reports or scorecards that can provide valuable information to both patients and physicians regarding health and wellness trends and risk scores or status. Patients can also ask questions about their medications or other treatments, and even request prescription refills, which can increase adherence rates.
Telehealth applications and services help increase access to quality care, which can improve continuity of care. The ability to connect to more patients more quickly and across larger geographies can help providers improve health outcomes for larger population groups. By reducing the time and costs associated with in-person visits, telehealth can help reduce bottlenecks in the care process often associated with traditional care models. This is particularly important for treatment and understanding of chronic conditions.
Remote Patient Monitoring
Both clinical- and consumer-grade remote patient monitoring devices help increase the frequency of patient data to which physicians have access, helping them better evaluate and adjust treatment plans. The ability to collect data remotely helps providers treat, monitor, and manage more patients, and the increased amount of data the remote patient monitoring delivers can help doctors better understand conditions and treatments across population groups to support population health programs.
Data Aggregation and Exchange
Sharing anonymized patient data through health information exchanges and other databases and registries will be critical to population health initiatives. The many technologies that can help increase engagement and drive positive outcomes will create unprecedented volumes of data that can be used to understand health trends and needs in patient populations. The ability to aggregate data from multiple sources – patient portals, RPM, telehealth, clinical trials, lab tests, and more – can help define standards in chronic care and benchmarks for preventative care and population health programs.
Analytics and Artificial Intelligence
The tremendous amount of data needed to develop effective population health programs requires complex analytics engines to efficiently and accurately spot trends, diagnose conditions, and uncover at-risk patients, identify optimal treatment plans. Artificial intelligence can help by automating much of the process of correlating information from different data sources, including individual patient data and other community trends, to identify both broad and individualized analyses. These can then be delivered to physicians to help them make more informed, data-driven decisions. AI can also help patients better manage their own health and conditions following office visits or discharge, while alerting patients and physicians when risks appear, potentially before they cause complications or require hospitalization.
Automated Care Management
Individual patient data and aggregate population health information can both be used to deliver automated care management communication to patients via text message, email, voice message, or patient portal messaging. Whether that’s prescription reminders, activity reports and recommendations, appointment scheduling alerts, condition updates, or other information, automated communications can help get deliver necessary information to patients and physicians efficiently and without requiring manual intervention. These can include messages regarding existing conditions to help drive better adherence to treatment protocols, or as early interventions when warning signs appear for at-risk patients to enable faster diagnosis and treatment.
As conversation around moving to value-based care grows, population health initiatives will likely gain momentum. The technology to develop and roll out successful programs already exists and is already generating massive amounts of data that will drive new healthcare models.
To learn more about how connected health systems can help create the data required for population health and other models for positive outcomes, connect with us here.