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Leveraging Technology to Enhance Population Health Efforts

July 20, 2016
by Chet Stagnaro, Freed Associates
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How can you cost-effectively and efficiently harness technology to improve your population health efforts? It’s a common question, as technology is the enabler for population health initiatives, yet many providers appear to be stalled or stymied in their attempts.

For instance, according to a recent study, nearly two-thirds of hospitals and healthcare providers have adopted remote patient monitoring and analytics into their care processes. However, they are struggling to integrate this information into their clinical workflows and at the desired frequency to support clinical decision-making and identify population health outreach opportunities.

Chet Stagnaro

It’s certainly not for a lack of interest among healthcare providers, as population health ties directly into their desire to provide optimal care for their communities. The problem is that it’s incredibly challenging to consolidate the massive amounts of data needed to improve population health and simultaneously devise a nimble technology platform to support it. Use the following best practices to help guide you.

Five Technology Best Practices

When leveraging existing data to get your population health program started, use technology solutions that keep patients at the center of your analysis and look for data enrichment opportunities within the following five technology best practices:

  1. Think “big picture” technology roadmap—Look for technology solutions that maximize your system’s electronic health record (EHR) and downstream clinical applications’ integration and leverage the EHR’s data model. However, you will also need to consider a “big picture” roadmap that delivers a population health technology platform capable of exploiting unstructured “big data” and structured data. This roadmap may include some or all of the following:

      Data Sources

      Social data

      Streaming device data

      SMS/text patient communications

      Genetic-based patient data

      Segmented market data, geographic information system (GIS) data

      Internet of Things (IoT) data, via telematics and 5G networks

      Patient-provided data such as wearable devices and external streaming device

      Home devices

      Physiological monitors

      Smart pumps

      Radio-frequency identification (RFID)


      Enterprise data warehouse

      Data lake

      Big data cloud strategy


      Data visualization

      Data mining

      Predictive and prescriptive analytics

      Business Intelligence

Considering the above list of emerging technologies and data sources and the drive to capture real-time data feedback, it is likely your population health platform will be a combination of technologies that address structured and unstructured data capture and storage wrapped into data governance processes. There is no one-platform technology that can encompass such diverse data management needs and objectives.

Therefore, exercise caution locking into single-vendor solutions, so that you can be flexible with strategic changes requiring new data capabilities. Remember to keep your specific population health problems and objectives in mind as you evaluate how technology will support your solutions. Leverage research and information available on websites, such as www.data.gov, and healthcare professional organizations, to assist with technology strategies that enable your organization to capture and share your data with other health care partners.


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