As population health receives more attention as a core concept for health reform, hospitals are innovating to develop their capabilities for population health management.   This development is concisely captured in Managing Population Health: The Role of the Hospital, a recent (2012) report from the Health Research & Educational Trust.

Defining Population Health. The report opens with a definition of population health as “…a strategic platform to improve the health outcomes of a defined group of people, concentrating on three related stages:

  1. The distribution of specific health statuses and outcomes within a population;
  2. Factors that cause the present outcomes distribution; and
  3. Interventions that may modify the factors to improve health outcomes.

The report goes on to say that “Improving population health requires initiatives to (1) increase the prevalence of evidence-based preventive health services and preventive behaviors, (2) improve care quality and patient safety, and (3) advance care coordination across the health care continuum.”

Driving Factors.  Multiple factors are driving hospitals toward population health management, including increasing rates of chronic disease and changes to value-based reimbursement.  The Affordable Care Act also includes provisions that encourage hospitals to adopt population health management strategies, including a requirement for most non-profit hospitals to conduct community health needs assessments, policies to reduce payment for unnecessary re-admissions, and incentives for prevention programs and patient-centered care models.

Leadership Perspective.  One important finding of the report is that a large majority of hospital CEOs surveyed are focusing on population health management as a necessary strategy in the current market to guarantee success in the future.  The majority of hospital leaders also indicate they are willing to explore collaboration for population health management with physicians, other clinical providers, public health, community organizations, employers, and payers.

Case Examples.  The report includes multiple case examples of hospitals implementing innovative approaches to population health management.  These are instructive for both hospitals and other community organizations that might want to collaborate with hospitals for population health improvement.

At Community Health Solutions we know from first-hand experience that hospitals and health systems are not only exploring population health, but also taking bold action.    We look forward to supporting more population health initiatives that include hospitals and health systems as essential partners.

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