As more health systems and hospitals shift to value-based care contracts, population health becomes more and more important to the success of healthcare.
Fortunately, there are a variety of population health information systems available to assist provider organizations as they encounter the obstacles that come with managing the health of a whole population. Additionally, the next generation of population health IT is expected to help ensure success thanks to a bevy of new functions and features.
Advancements in mobile technology have helped smartphones become valuable assets in the betterment of population health. A variety of scientifically supported apps are already available to assist with conditions like clinical depression, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and a number of others.
However, provider organizations must have a vetting process when it comes to these apps to determine their validity. Some apps simply do not have the evidence to support their claims. Utilizing apps that have been tried and tested can help providers supply more cost-effective care to at-risk populations.
How can these apps help patients? When it comes to pre-diabetes, some mobile apps and electronic programs have been proven to help at-risk populations manage their health and prevent type 2 diabetes. For patients already battling diabetes, apps can be paired with blood glucose meters to aid in managing the disease.
Another example is apps and sensors that help monitor asthma, which are expected to be quite popular. These apps use gamification to teach children to manage their condition better. Dozens of studies have shown that using gaming applications to help asthma patients can be very beneficial, so many asthma games are in the works.
A Single Virtual System
A single virtual system will be a vital aspect of the next generation of population health IT. Currently, it’s all too common for key pieces of health information to get left behind or lost as patients come and go in the healthcare system.
The good news is that interoperability and data sharing are beginning to allow patient data to follow them as they move across the healthcare spectrum. If care providers have a more holistic understanding of a patient’s history, they can make more informed decisions and provide a higher quality of care.
If a specialist sees a patient for the first time, for example, having access to any previous X-rays or lab results can allow him to pick up right where previous providers left off.
Another key to the future of population health is to bring social determinants of health into the fold. It’s generally believed that a person’s overall wellbeing and health is only partially impacted by the care of a traditional health facility. Including patients’ social determinants of health in their EHRs can empower a care team to focus on additional factors to help patients get healthy and stay that way.
In this scenario, a patient’s electronic health record would extend to non-traditional care situations, like support groups and other community organizations. These groups and organizations can play an important part in a patient’s overall wellbeing.
At some point in the future, technology will be able to assist physicians by making recommendations for individual patients. This technology, known as prescriptive analytics, will exist within the workflow to outline steps care teams should take to achieve the desired outcome.
Prescriptive analytics isn’t an example of best practices or implementing protocols. It’s an integration of guidance content with workflow tools to develop a unified approach to managing population health. While today’s technologies mostly focus on pinpointing gaps in care, the next generation of tech will ensure that these gaps never occur in the first place.
As value-based care continues to evolve, healthcare will need to be able to independently evaluate results from care management activities and those from medical activities. Since care managers don’t control medical procedures or treat patients, metrics that rely entirely on patient outcomes don’t sufficiently measure what is being done to achieve those good outcomes.
Health systems must focus on isolating factors for outcomes to better assess outcomes and to further improve the process.