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Investing in Population Health Capabilities

News  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   October 01, 2016

Healthcare providers are finding financially sustainable ways to spend big dollars on improving the health of their patient populations.

This article first appeared in the October 2016 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

While a universally accepted definition of population health is elusive, David Kindig, MD, PhD, and Greg Stoddart, PhD, took this scholarly stab at characterizing the concept in a 2003 issue of the American Journal of Public Health: "The health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group."

Kindig and Stoddart also asserted that "the field of population health includes health outcomes, patterns of health determinants, and policies and interventions that link these two."

Healthcare providers are collectively investing billions of dollars to support the "policies and interventions" deemed necessary to help boost the collective health of their patient populations, says Robert Massenburg, senior vice president and healthcare industry manager at SunTrust Bank, a corporate and investment bank based in Atlanta. "There are two areas where hospitals, health systems, and physician practices are investing in population health. One is information technology, and the other is infrastructure."

Electronic medical records dominate the information technology sphere of investments in population health, he says. "If you look at a single-site hospital with 200 to 500 beds, you're going to spend somewhere between $30 million and $75 million on an EMR system, which includes all the hardware, software, and the increased staff. You're not just buying hardware and software and using the same staff that you had—you're creating a new information group at the hospital.

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.

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