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Has Population Health Management Reached a Fever Pitch?

May 9, 2013
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What can analytics do for you? That’s the question health IT leaders have to be asking themselves in 2013. From what I’ve seen in the news, and from talking with Mark Van Kooy, M.D., director of clinical informatics at the Aspen Advisers, a Pittsburgh-based consulting firm, many are looking at the big picture and answering that question by saying, “A lot.”

In the last few months it seems provider after provider is announcing a big-time investment in analytics that will help them better manage at a population level. I started to notice this when the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) health system announced a five-year, $100 million enterprise personalized medicine analytics initiative back in October of last year.

That initiative blew me out of the water because it showed how serious leading organizations could be about using analytics. As healthcare delivery has begun to transform from a fee-for-service to an outcomes-based payment model, it became clear to me then that providers will increasingly eye analytics for better population health management.

Since then I’ve seen similar-type announcements from: Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), The New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center, The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Abington Health, based in Abington, Pa., Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), The State of Mississippi, and many others.

It’s worth noting, at HCI, we’ve gone out of our way to recognize various initiatives that have already accomplished population health goals. The folks at the Colorado Beacon Consortium, a not-for-profit collaborative of four healthcare organizations in the Rocky Mountain state, won our Healthcare Informatics Innovator Award for leveraging analytics to bring population health capabilities across western Colorado.

It honestly would take too long to track down every analytics initiative I’ve seen over the past few months, so if I ignored your organization’s initiative, please forgive me.

While these providers are aiming to achieve different clinical goals (brain treatment at UCLA, diabetes care at NYU Langone, for example), they all can use these analytics capabilities to conduct a more thorough, real-time analysis of data, which ultimately will lead to better population health management. As Dr. Van Kooy told me in our engaging conversation, the increasing digitization of healthcare data has made this possible.

“[Effective analytics] will allow providers to take large volumes of data, and in real-time, identify patterns and trends within the populations we’re actually treating. This will allow us to adjust capacity, address workflow, and also respond to outcomes that are less than desirable,” say Van Kooy.

The power of analytics can be recognized on a micro-level. And indeed, some of the providers I mentioned above are aiming to do just that. Overall though, you get the sense that the money being invested in these analytics capabilities are for grandiose purposes.

This is pioneer level IT stuff we’re talking about. But even on a smaller technological scale, I’ve seen a dedication to population health management. Look no further than the work being attempted by the folks at the Temple University Health System (TUHS), and their newly created Institute for Population Health.

In a recent chat I had with TUHS vice president of health care services, Paula Stillman, M.D., she gave me a rundown of what the institute will attempt to accomplish and how they will attempt to change behavior in North Philadelphia. Most of her work is “hands-on,” but Stillman absolutely says the institute will invest and use clinical information systems.

“We the process of developing a database that will take feeds from multiple sources of information and help us monitor outcomes,” Stillman says.

It’s funny but that sounds an awful like analytics, doesn’t it?

One last thing, if you are interested in hearing more on these types of initiatives and learning from the people who are implementing them, it’s not too late to sign up for our Healthcare Informatics Executive Summit, May 15-17, in San Francisco. Industry leaders and experts will converge to talk about population health management, analytics, and much more.


Thoughts? Feel free to leave comments below or respond to me on Twitter by following me at @HCI_GPerna.