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Investing in Population Health? Start by Updating Your IT Infrastructure, Engaging Patients

Analysis  |  By Jonathan Bees  
   August 30, 2018

HealthLeaders' recent research report suggests IT infrastructure accounts for a significant portion of population health investment, because so many areas within it require updating.

Healthcare providers are investing across a broad spectrum of organizational needs in preparation for population health, and there are few areas that are immune from the need for improvement. IT infrastructure in particular accounts for a significant portion of the investment, because there are so many areas within it that require updating.

As an example, survey responses in the 2018 HealthLeaders Media Population Health Survey, for the top six IT infrastructure investment areas for population health are clustered in a tight group ranging from 52% to 59%, indicating that organizations require a fairly significant update to participate in population health activities.

The top three IT infrastructure investment areas within the group are analytics using payer claims data (59%), analytics using population data (57%), and data warehouses (55%). The results suggest respondents have a high level of interest in using analytics for population health activities.

Near the bottom of responses for IT infrastructure investment areas is analytics using social determinants data (33%), which is up eight percentage points compared with last year's survey.

An increasing number of providers have begun using social determinants data in their population health programs. However, responses for analytics using patient genetic data (11%) and artificial intelligence (9%) indicate they are still in the early stages of adoption, although they have bright futures.

Patient engagement

In the survey, respondents were asked what their organization's three biggest barriers to successfully deploying population health programs are, and engaging patients in their own care received the second-highest response for population health barriers.

To remedy this issue, respondents indicate that the top two patient engagement areas in which their organizations are investing in population health management are patient portals (76%) and wellness- or condition-related outreach programs (71%). These responses are nearly identical to last year's survey.

Of growing interest to providers is the use of technology (e.g., email, websites, portals) and the telephone (and increasingly, cell phones) to facilitate patient engagement.

For example, the patient engagement areas experiencing the greatest increase in response compared with last year's survey are systems to assess patient engagement levels (51%), up 11 percentage points; text message reminders (42%); and telehealth to track patient health status (38%), both of which are up nine percentage points.

Jonathan Bees is a research analyst for HealthLeaders.

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