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Population Health Possibilities

Edward Prewitt, for HealthLeaders Media, November 13, 2013
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This article appears in the November issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Judging by the high interest from HealthLeaders readers, population health management is the great opportunity for healthcare organizations—and the great unknown. In this issue's cover story, our October Intelligence Report, and a series of webcasts, we dig into the definition of population health management, the requirements, and the risks.

And there are risks. Will the required up-front investments in analytics and case management outstrip savings? Value-based care efforts may be out of sync with fee-for-service payment structures. Partners in the care continuum may prove unreliable, and payers may be predatory.

A standard starting point for provider organizations is the relatively safe ground of their own employees. A quarter of survey respondents in our Intelligence Report Population Health Management: Steps to Risk Sharing and Data Analytics (available on our website for download) say their preferred focus for population health efforts is their own employees. As Bill Robertson, president and CEO of Adventist HealthCare, told Senior Leadership Editor Philip Betbeze for our cover story (starting on page 10), "A healthier population is going to be a more effective employee population, and it's going to also be a lower-cost population."

Our interviews and research emphasize the importance of analytics for any population health initiative. Healthcare leaders must dig into the data about a defined population—whether that is employees, "super-utilizers," or covered lives in an ACO—to find out where the costs and opportunities lie. The top investments for population health management within the next three years, as uncovered by our Intelligence Report, will be integrating clinical data across care continuum (66%) and adding data analytics capability (53%). These needs exceed expected investments for case management, care redeployment, or wellness efforts.

In conversations with healthcare executives, I'm struck by the widespread embrace of population health management for the dual purposes of saving money and improving care. Both goals were in evidence at the HealthLeaders Media CFO Exchange in Colorado Springs, where 37 financial leaders recently gathered for a series of small-group discussions moderated by HealthLeaders editors. A recap starts on page 70, with in-depth coverage at www.healthleadersmedia.com.

The open conversation, deep insights, and shared problem-solving prevalent at the CFO Exchange are representative of our publications and events, which present peer-to-peer leadership views on the industry's critical issues. I welcome your feedback.


This article appears in the November issue of HealthLeaders magazine.


Edward Prewitt is the Editorial Director of HealthLeaders Media.
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