Charting A Better Course

Client: We have great health-care IT for population health management (PHM).

Strategic Advisor: Great. How are you using the platform to manage your population?

Client: We have dashboards that capture key healthcare metrics. The reports we get from our HIT platform are presented regularly in meetings.

Strategic Advisor: Great. Have you reached your PHM objectives? Has your population’s health improved?

Client: [Pause. Stare. Asks team for help. Stare.] We don’t know.

The rising influence of health-care IT in PHM has been tremendous. There are more than one hundred platforms and twice as many apps. Over the past five years, significant resources have been invested in health-care IT development, deployment, and marketing. Like all newly christened vehicles, a few of them are actually more than just functional. Health-care IT has improved data capture and analysis, PHM data visualization has taken huge leaps, and there’s greater access to medical, demographic, and healthcare finance information.

Insurers and provider organizations have unfurled their sails, set “cruise,” and health-care IT is charting the course.

However, while some platforms have demonstrated abilities to provide information and technology, their impact on health outcomes is becoming increasingly opaque. In large part, the blurring can be linked to heavy reliance on health-care IT as the sole driver of activity without clearly defined markers of achievement. Impressive whirs, dazzling bells, and the shininess of new tools can lull key decision-makers into a soporific fog.

“Because we bought it, we must be using it, and because we’re using it, it must be working.” The truth lies somewhere closer to shore — just beyond the rocks.

Population health management is the iterative process of changing behavior and outcomes in people, as well as improving clinical systems that impact healthcare. To do so PHM initiatives need:

  1. Management — engaged leadership aligning data with quality goals and valued direction.
  2. Movement — continuous measurement of effective health care practices and outcomes.
  3. Messaging — communicating what’s working, what’s sustainable, and what’s replicable.

Abdicating key decision making to sparkly health-care IT doesn’t change the course of health outcomes. Execution prevents the organization from misdirection and running aground.