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Population Health is Not a One-Man Operation

April 14, 2015
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When it comes to population health management and value-based care, there is a recurring theme that I’ve heard everywhere, over and over at the 2015 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Conference in Chicago.     
It’s about the culture of physicians, team-based care, and change from volume to value. I’ll let James Whitfill, M.D. CMO at Scottsdale Health Partners, a clinical integrated network in Phoenix, explain: 
“Physicians, we can’t do this alone. All of the information coming forward to us, we have to be able to leverage it and coordinate with our colleagues, between specialists and primary care physicians. The reality is the physician can’t be the lone quarterback. You have to be part of team with care coordinators, pharmacists, and other folks,” said Whitfill. 
It was no coincidence that Whitfill, representing the outpatient side, said this on a panel (hosted by Alpharetta, Ga.-based McKesson) that included representatives from a payer, a pharmacist, and someone from a health system. The message is clear: it takes all sides to make care coordination work. The physician can’t act alone. 
Whitfill’s comments were echoed by Rich Boehler, M.D. President and CEO of St. Joseph Hospital, who I was able to interview earlier this morning. Dr. Boehler talked about this team-based care concept and getting physicians to buy in.
Naturally, this is easier said than done. “They’re the toughest part of this,” Boehler said about physicians. Moreover, Whitfill talked about how many physicians are jaded and a hard group to convince to change the way they think.  
“[Many physicians] will say, ‘I have seen this before in the 1990s.’ A lot of us who were around for the last round of healthcare reform were jaded by that,” he said. “It’s been super important to bring a) different revenue models that begin to show that there is something to this value-based healthcare, which b) allows us to do other things, like develop real quality-based metrics…that help change things,” Whitfill said.
Even with the evidence in hand, most organizations are still having to deal with a dual reality. Whitfill compared it traveling down a Class 4 Rapids with one foot in a fee-for-service canoe and another in value-based healthcare. “I’m just hoping they stay close, get through the rapids right now, and make that successful transition,” he said. 
In his keynote address, Humana president and CEO Bruce Broussard talked about team-based, patient-centered care. Broussard told the audience that it comes down to changing perspectives. 
Yes, technology, specifically getting various systems to interoperate, is going to be essential in the move to value-based care. This was mentioned by Broussard, Whitfill, and many other leaders in this space.
But while those problems can and will be solved, changing the mentality could be a longer, more enduring process. It’s not just between physician and hospitals. It’s other relationships (payer/provider, payer/employer, payers/physicians, and more) that will need to transform, or as Whitfill said, “give each other a group hug.”