Pop Health Summit Doug Tolley Post

Finding Solutions at the Population Health Summit

The KLAS 2017 Population Health Cornerstone Summit exceeded my expectations. I was really amazed at how willingly the providers, payers, and vendors in attendance shared their experiences and best practices. I was struck that population health, which is so critical to patient success as well as provider organizations’ financial success moving forward, is so largely undefined at the present.

In general, everybody wants to find solutions. The interactions I saw among vendors, payers, and providers at the summit were terrific. I was particularly impressed with the dedication of our attendees in preparing for and contributing to the discussions we had. It was encouraging to see so many healthcare influencers and experts join the conversation and discuss how to solve the big problems facing healthcare today. And I saw KLAS and our summit attendees not only converse but actually shape the very definition of what population health will look like in the decades to come.

Here are my top 10 takeaways from the 2017 Cornerstone summit:

  1. Some organizations have had big population health wins in the last year. One vendor said their clients brought in an average of 2 data sources a couple of years ago; now the average is 13.

  2. Providers who find the most success with population health start with the why, not the what. They ask why they are gathering the data and how that data will help patients.

  3. Information about social determinants of health (including demographics information, behavioral health data, and patient-reported data) needs to be included in base-level population health data. Aggregation of this information shouldn’t be considered advanced functionality; social data has a huge impact on patients. One doctor at the summit shared that in Chicago, there is a life-expectancy drop of 18 years in an area of six metros stops. Where a patient lives can make a huge difference to the type of care he or she needs.

  4. Some provider organizations believe they have population health all figured out because they use a certain vendor or solution; however, this is not a strategy for success. Population health success requires more than just the tools. Providers need the right people, relationships, processes, strategy, leadership, and vision.

  5. Data that lives in a vacuum is just not as valuable as data that is applied to specific use cases.

  6. Communication between the C-suite and care leadership needs to improve dramatically for providers to find success in their population health efforts.

  7. In some ways, providers have to separate the financial view of healthcare from the patient-centered view; one provider said if she is thinking about making or losing money with each patient, she is not thinking about the best care she can give.

  8. The efficacy of population health has a long way to go. One vendor said they don’t have a single customer who knows what they should measure or how they should conduct those measurements.

  9. One idea at the summit was that provider organizations should be focusing on three or four outcomes measurements instead of dozens of process measurements; this could help population health start to have a real impact on patients.

  10. One major key to success with population health is getting the right people in the room. Provider organizations should ask, “Whose life will this project impact?” Then those stakeholders should be brought to the table from the very beginning, even before the executive team, so they won’t be blindsided. These stakeholders could include providers, IT staff, and others.