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Population Health Management: Strategies That Work
The words “population health management” are now part of almost every planning conversation with our healthcare clients. The Federal government is shifting responsibility of health and wellness to the health systems, and they understand that survival in this new environment hinges on success in this arena. So what is population health? Is this a completely new concept? And most important to my facility planning and real estate teams, what do we need to be prepared to understand?
I recently had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion hosted by Modern Healthcare at the MGM Grand Hotel in Detroit. Leadership (all physicians) from three leading healthcare organizations answered questions and presented ideas around the topic of Population Health Management: Strategies That Work. (For thorough summaries of the event, check out this article in Crain’s Detroit and this debrief from BCBS of Michigan.)
Herman Gray, executive vice president of pediatric services at Detroit Medical Center; Tom Simmer, chief medical officer of Detroit-based Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan; and Bruce Muma, chief medical officer with the Detroit-based Henry Ford Physician Network spent an hour discussing strategies for managing care through population health techniques. Two key points were common throughout the conversation:
- Successful population health management will lower cost and improve quality.
- Getting the right medical data, to the right provider, at the right time, in the right location (for the patient) is the biggest challenge (and key) health systems face.
What is population health management?
In basic terms, population health management is the act of creating health goals for a population. Dr. Simmer used an example from Sweden to explain the concept to the audience. The Swedish Public Dental Service has identified that quality dental care in children lowers overall spending (costs) in the health system; therefore, they provide free care to everyone between the ages 3 and 19. Recently, to lower their own costs, the government mandated that dentists dramatically reduce the number of cavities in patients under the age of 19. Not only does this reduce costs for subsidized services (fillings in pediatric patients) but also (presumably) improves health in adults by teaching them techniques for proper dental care. This is population health management.
How can facilities support population health management?
Getting the patients to the right location (with the right information) is the key to success. That means having the right facility (with the right care offering) in the right location. For example, Detroit Medical Center is attacking surging emergency department admissions by bolstering their primary care network immediately near their most overused ED’s.
The project, entitled Gateway to Health: An Innovative Model for Primary Care Expansion in Detroit, will make patient-centered medical care immediately accessible to individuals without existing primary care physicians. By embedding primary care services in those areas of highest emergency department use, the DMC project intends to meet patients where they are already seeking care to develop meaningful doctor-patient relationships, improve care coordination and implement strategies to promote wellness. The ultimate goals are to deliver improved health care access, quality and efficiency for the surrounding community.
Facilities are an essential part of the discussion. As you can see from the DMC example, the organization has made a specific capital investment (supported by CMS) to construct patient-centered medical homes within walking distance of their emergency departments. Health systems have made significant investments in recent years to build the IT infrastructure (and systems) required to support the EHR Incentive Program. Now they must make sure that patients have access to the right care in the right location.