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What David Nash Said--And Why Healthcare Executives Need to Listen

March 14, 2013
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Why the healthcare policy luminary’s comments are so important for healthcare leaders to know about—and understand


It was a wonderful opportunity for Healthcare Informatics that our Assistant Editor Rajiv Leventhal was able to sit down with David Nash, M.D., founder and dean of the Jefferson School of Population Health, during a break in the 13th Population Health Colloquium being held this week in Philadelphia (and our Senior Contributing Editor, David Raths is covering the Colloquium today--please watch this space for his coverage). I’ve known David Nash for over 20 years, and pretty much every effort and initiative he’s been involved in has been high substantive—and very successful.

And this colloquium is an event that comes at a fascinating, fecund moment for population health, a concept whose time has absolutely arrived. Based on my and my team’s recent reporting and discussions with industry leaders, it’s clear to me that we in healthcare are finally reaching a moment of critical mass when it comes to population health, when enough healthcare leaders, executives, and clinicians are realizing the potential inherent in population health concepts to completely rethink and rework healthcare delivery in order to more fully and successfully serve our patients and communities.

And what David Nash shared with Rajiv yesterday was important. I particularly liked this quote, which encompassed the concepts of population health and accountable care: “[I] think we’re helping to define where we hope reform will go as evidenced by the talks this afternoon. [For instance], you can call it an accountable care organization (ACO), but if all that means is that you have created a larger delivery system by virtue of more hospitals, that is not something that will improve outcomes, transparency, patient satisfaction, and certainly won’t bend the cost curve. What can determine a good outcome, other than medical care? Community support, care coordination, nutrition, socioeconomic status are all the messy things that go into population health.”

And David Nash went on to say that hospital executives simply cannot see accountable care as being about cornering healthcare markets, filling more beds, or bringing in additional revenues. Instead, both accountable care and population health—concepts with tremendous overlap—are really all about caring for patients across the continuum and over time and truly managing and coordinating their care, and about looking at health (not just health care), community-wide.

David Nash has been someone who for the more than 20 years that I’ve known him has seen the future more clearly than anyone I know in healthcare; and he showed himself to be a spectacular leader in establishing the first school of population health in the U.S. just under four years ago now. And the kinds of discussions taking place this week in Philadelphia attest to the tremendous importance of this phenomenon in healthcare right now. The bottom line? Population health is not just the latest “hot concept” or buzz-term: it’s absolutely where healthcare is going. And we at Healthcare Informatics are passionately dedicated to bringing you, our readers, the most substantive and useful coverage and analysis in this area, as we shift forward towards the new healthcare—which is clearly on display this week in Philly.