The art of population management has to do with population density. Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume; it is a quantity of type number density. It is frequently applied to living organisms and most of the time to humans. Because of this, the field of population health management is crucial in the healthcare industry.
There have been many contributions to healthcare population management and even more in recent years. Arguably, one of the most influential contributions in contemporary times to how we understand population health is a book by Evans, Barer, and Marmor published in 1994. In the book, there’s no direct definition of the term populations health management but the concept was described as “the common focus on trying to understand the determinants of health of populations.”
There are multiple and disparate definitions of population health management abound. One of the most all-encompassing and accurate definitions goes as such:
“Health Care Population Management is the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private communities, and individuals.”
This definition of Health Care Population Management gives the healthcare industry a model to use when moving forward with population health management strategies to improve outcomes in the public health system.
Other definitions of population health management in the healthcare industry are:
“Population Health Management is the aggregation of patient data across multiple health information technology resources, the analysis of that data into a single, actionable patient record, and the actions through which care providers can improve both clinical and financial outcomes.”
“[Population Health Management] is the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group.”
“Population Health Management is the common focus on trying to understand the determinants of health of populations.”
“Population Health Management is the aggregate health outcome of health-adjusted life expectancy (quantity and quality) of a group of individuals, in an economic framework that balances the relative marginal returns from the multiple determinants of health.”
The Rise of Chronic Diseases
The concept of population health management became more and more intriguing to health systems and healthcare organizations because of the escalating costs of treating chronic diseases and because of the increasing notoriety of these chronic diseases. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in the united states. For example seven out of the 10 Americans that die each year die from a chronic disease. Heart disease, Cancer and stroke account for more than 50 percent of these deaths. Arthritis is the most common cause of disability, with almost 19 million Americans reporting activity limitations. Also, Diabetes continues to be the leading cause of kidney failure. These deaths and disability caused by the chronic disease can no longer go unnoticed and/or ignored.
The Healthcare Industry needs to do a better job of collecting true patient outcomes data, rather than proxies for care. For example, it inherently does not matter if a person with diabetes has had a foot exam—but it matters very much if that foot exam discovers an open wound that will not heal. Additionally, organizations must also understand cost at a granular, individual level instead of guessing at costs by looking at the average cost of overall patients or members. That approach is almost meaningless when managing margins. Healthcare organizations that have learned and mastered these steps and possess these abilities and capabilities have the essential components of an effective population health management program.
An effective and efficient population health management program requires fundamental changes to the way patient care management is handled and practiced. To have effective population health management, healthcare organizations have to be smart about accelerating development of the right areas and manage expectations about what can be achieved.