Before we talk about population health companies, it's wise to understand what population health is. So let’s define population health. The definitions of population health management are almost as many as Population Health Companies. A few definitions go like this


  • Population Health can be defined as the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private communities, and individuals.


  • Population health management is the aggregation of patient data across multiple health information technology resources.


  • Population management is the ability to manage the health outcomes of a population of patients with a similar condition.


  • Population management is going at-risk with payers for the outcomes of  population of patients (also known as free-for-value or pay-for-performance)


  • Population management is using Care management to improve outcomes for high-risk, high-cost patients


  • Population management is engaging patients and communities to achieve better health outcomes


Typically, health organization uses a different tool such as Business Intelligence (BI) analytical tools or healthcare analytics and data binding to apply population management. Population health management involves aggregation information from big data into understandable and easy to analyze information. Dealing with big data is a top issue and without the right tools can be frustrating but when handled properly yield the best benefits. A successful population management program made by a population management company like Health catalyst will give real-time insights to health practitioners, clinicians, nurses, and administrators. These real-time insights will allow them to identify and address care gaps within a patient population. A well-developed care management program is the key to better outcomes and costs savings especially in populations with diseases that have the potential to spread rapidly or populations with chronic diseases. While data may be used separately by different hospitals and health organizations, there are different data analysis tools used across the system. Many systems do not integrate information on administrative and logistical activities like billing, medical claims with other health-related information like health records, lab results, patient medical history, patient drug allergies etc. A shortcoming like this affects the quality of patient care management. And Patient Care Management is a critical component of population health management. Think of population health management as Patient Care Management on a grander scale. Even though the objective of care management does vary among healthcare organizations, their general goal and underlying mission revolve around improving patient self-management, improving medication management and reducing the cost of care both for patients and for the health organization. At the end of the day, it all comes full circle. In order to have an effective and efficient population health management system, you have to have a working patient care management system and a health philosophy of its importance.


Typically, population health companies use different tools such as Business Intelligence (BI) analytical tools to apply population management. Healthcare is transitioning away from a traditional fee-for-service business model to a model that incorporates value into the payment equation thus making the system more accountable. It is, however, a long way to go to equal its peers in the international community. Many health systems don’t have the data and technology to support such transition but they can get it from population health companies like Health Catalyst. The absolute minimal data sets required for this work include:

1) patient-reported outcomes data,
2) social determinants of health data, and
3) activity-based costing data that will allow accurate management of financial margins in per-capita reimbursement contracts.

Without these three pieces of data, population health companies can never achieve the aspirations of value-based care—managing populations of health and creating better patient outcomes at an efficient cost.

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