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How diverse technology can drive improvements in population health

By Zachary Blunt

Interest in population health has grown over the last decade, particularly with regard to value-based care. These two initiatives go hand in hand as physicians, providers, and payers seek to provide proactive health care rather than reactive "sick care."

Population health can only be improved if the healthcare community increases interaction with patients in settings where costs are lower. To better understand what patients need and to ensure providers are delivering care when and where appropriate for each patient’s situation, the healthcare community must leverage today’s cutting-edge technology and data to gain insights that drive optimal decision-making.
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What is population health?
Interestingly, the definition of population health tends to vary depending on who you ask. Ultimately it boils down to managing the health of a defined group — whether it’s based on geography, age, disease, or behavioral factors — by providing the right intervention at the least costly point in the care continuum. An effective population health management strategy includes improving care coordination, enhancing health and wellness, eliminating disparities and increasing transparency and accountability —all with the goal of delivering higher quality care at lower costs across the board.

Healthcare executives consider population health to be a dynamic area — 83 percent indicated it is critically or very important, according to The State of Population Health: Third Annual Numerof Survey Report released in April 2018. A vast majority — 97 percent — expect population health initiatives to offer a significant opportunity to gain control of clinical costs, as well as improve quality of care and patient outcomes. But these executives also admitted they are still in the early stages of experimenting with risk-based agreements.

Driving these executives’ interest in population health, in part, could be a more serious focus by key organizations in implementing value-based care initiatives. For example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) introduced several programs, and by this year, expects that half of Medicare payments would be structured according to value-based models. Commercial payers are also going down the same path, as many have announced their own value-based care programs and set payment goals.

Additionally, there's the Medicare Access & CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), which established the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) that links fee-for-service payments to quality and value. MACRA is designed to promote delivery of better care, encourage smarter spending, and result in a healthier population.

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