Population health initiatives are nothing new -- but I'll be the first to admit that I was floored by the results that some projects are getting, and this may aid our efforts toward coordinated care.
As you likely know, population health initiatives are projects that look at the health of a group -- for instance the health of everyone in a state -- including the distribution of those outcomes.
CareOregon is one example -- a nonprofit that increases access to healthcare services for patients on Oregon’s Medicaid programs. As their CEO tells it, their goal is to make hospitals all but unnecessary by limiting the need for that kind of care.
The surprising results? Since it launched in 2011, CareOregon has seen a statewide 23% drop in unnecessary emergency department visits and admissions have decreased as well.
As providers, we may not be population health practitioners in name, but it's our responsibility to look at these determinants of health as well. And we've identified three crucial takeaways from population health that any provider can use.
CareOregon is a great example to look at when it comes to population health. It's broad-based enough to carry takeaways for all kinds of health initiatives. Its results have been substantial in a short period of time. And they've generously shared their initiatives and results so others can learn.
4 Takeaways from Population Health That Every Provider Can Use:
- Focus on health, not just healthcare.
For instance, with CareOregon, a child with severe asthma might be cared for with air conditioners or air filters -- not just medication or even emergency care. This full picture of the "social determinants of health" is something we're passionate about at ClickCare -- and a big reason that the case method of iClickCare is flexible, holistic, multimedia, and includes providers across the continuum of care.
- Value people -- including the patient and the family -- across the continuum of care.
CareOregon focus on teams, not events. So whether that means a specialist, an aide, or even a professional outside of medicine, if it will help the patient's overall healthcare, it's part of the picture. As they say, "Sometimes protecting your health means we’ll help you find other agencies that can help you access non-medical support." They also prioritize improving teamwork and communication over advancing specific tactics to improve care. If the team is working well, the results will be good. Finally, they use a “bottom up, top-enabled” approach -- so that the folks who are in most contact with the patient are driving the care (the day-to-day providers), in ways that are enabled at the top (administrators). Valuing people strongly supports our belief that healthcare collaboration and coordinated care are also crucial initiatives -- and telemedicine is one way to make them practical, efficient, and easy.
- Use simple, inexpensive solutions.
This approach is about using technology to work smarter, not harder. Sure, videoconferencing telemedicine systems are fancy (and expensive) -- but we believe that the best medical camera is the one in your pocket already and that the technology should be deeply intuitive. Sophisticated technology doesn't need to be expensive -- and that usually means investing in software, not hardware that is rapidly outdated.
- Look at holistic data.
Fierce Healthcare quotes Karen DeSalvo, M.D., former national coordinator for health information technology at the the Department of Health of Human Services, as saying that we need to break down data "silos that prevent providers from seeing the full picture of a patient's, or community’s, health. Having the full picture allows for a 'system that wraps around people and supports them." Electronic health records (EMRs and EHRs) are just one piece of the puzzle. All of the other parts of patient data -- that anecdote from a nurse, the self-reported weight changes, etc -- need to be taken into account in systematic ways. Sure, the data in EMRs and EHRs can be codified, but we think that a big reason that CareOregon has seen such dramatic results is because they use the data that helps, even if it's not able to be put into a spreadsheet.
We applaud the pioneers of CareOregon, and the work of every provider who has been courageous enough to try something new as part of it.
Maybe your medical context is not one where these principles are being used -- but that doesn't mean that you can't apply them, even in small ways, today.
And if you want a medical collaboration tool like iClickCare as part of that effort, try it for free: