The rise of population health management

The rise of population health management

by Loren Bonner, DOTmed News Online Editor | April 01, 2014
From the April 2014 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Even before I headed off to the airport for my flight to Orlando to attend HIMSS 2014 in late February, I knew I would be hearing a lot about population health management. I can't tell you the number of press releases I received leading up to the show that included this latest health care buzz phrase. As I suspected, it was mentioned everywhere at HIMSS. It was the topic of panel discussions and the focus of new product releases - even from major imaging manufacturers. For those who may not be familiar with the term, population health management is the idea of caring for an individual patient while at the same time improving outcomes and lowering health care costs for an entire patient population.

For example, a patient who does not have their diabetes under control can cost the system $20,000 a year while a patient who is managing the disease correctly can lower the cost of care down to $8,000 a year. That's the basic idea of population health management and it aligns perfectly with health care reform that's moving in the direction of rewarding and incentivizing hospitals and providers to keep patients out of the hospital and costs under control.

Interestingly enough, as I was sitting down to write this letter, I came across a really interesting piece of news that also concerns population health management. According to Becker's Hospital Review, hospitals are adding chief population health officers (CPHOs) to the C-suite.

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Jim King, senior partner and chief quality officer with Witt/Kieffer, told Becker's that he believes the CPHO will become and remain one of the industry's faster growing C-suite positions for some time: "I think a lot of healthcare systems are trying to figure out what the new healthcare delivery model needs to look like in each of their markets," he says.

King also points out in the article that CPHOs tend to be physicians. Not only are they designing the population health strategy for the organization, but they are also leading the physician networks in the hospital.

But looking to hire a CPHO implies that hospitals or health systems are working on putting a population health management strategy in place. The big question I have is, how many hospitals and health systems have done this or are planning to do this? As always, we love to hear from you. Please let us know if you have any insights.

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