Population Health Trend

How Population Health Bucks the Consolidation Trend

Call me a nerd, but one of the things I love most about my work is diving into data, getting neck-deep in analysis. I love that feeling of having a hunch confirmed by the aggregated voice of our provider friends. What I love even more, however, is when the data brings back an insight that challenges my previously held beliefs.

For example, recently in any number of smaller Health IT market segments, we’ve seen that consolidation has become the king of decision making. For example, many I’ve spoken with in the ED space feel pained that they have to “reinvent the wheel” on making EDIS tools user-friendly.

 The best of breed vendors largely had ED usability figured out, but as the organization at large replaced smaller ED vendors in favor of a hospital-wide, integrated platform (Epic, Cerner, etc.) they pulled those highly specialized tools out for something that, while it plays nicely with the rest of their IT landscape, didn’t have the finely-tuned feel of their previous solution.

The story plays the same in nearly every market segment I look at. Except one: Population Health Management (PHM)

How Pop Health Bucks the Trend

Recently I had a call with a population health leader for a large hospital-system. They’re in the middle of a change over on their EMR vendor and I asked her if that meant that they would drop their current population health tool to install the new EMR vendor’s offering. She told me, “It’s vitally important to have a single EMR as our core platform, but it doesn’t necessarily make sense to mush our pop health together with that yet.”

She explained that while their previous EMR vendor and their new one both have PHM offerings, they drive towards completely different outcomes. They’ll likely use both vendors’ platforms for the time being in order to accomplish their population health goals.

“For us, population health means targeted, impactful outcomes,” she explained. That means not only having a tool that puts registries into clinician workflows, helping them make treatment decisions, but it also involves tools that can aggregate and disseminate data to the entire organization and help make deep cultural changes.

As I’ve looked at data from our recent population health report, it seems that my VP friend’s experience isn’t a unique one. In fact, as we asked about satisfaction rates for vendors across all six areas of population health (data aggregation, data analysis, care management, financial reporting, patient engagement and clinician engagement) we found that – with rare exception – providers didn’t rely on a single vendor to satisfy all their needs.

Pop Health Chart

 

Part of the reason for this market’s fracturing lies in the fact that population health means something different to everybody.

For some, successful population health is often defined as “can you be successful in shared savings or VBC contracts and maintain a high level of quality?” If you can show that your diabetic care is improved, and you’ve done so through your registries and mitigated unnecessary care? Success for these organizations simply means rolling out registries and new technology to their end users – meeting requirements in a shared-risk contract.

For others population health (like my VP friend) success means, “can we drive a population to a better place in terms of outcomes and value? If we set ‘do no harm’ as a data-driven goal, then success becomes infinitely more complex.”

Many who have set their sights on that goal quickly realize that multiple vendors working in-tandem give them the best chance at successfully meeting their PHM ideals.

My VP friend went on to explain that, while consolidation is an ultimate goal of their organization, they can’t let technology drive their process:

Technology is there to support your process, so you can’t misplace the role of technology and let [your IT tool] drive the processes, it can only be the support. However, I think IT vendors should also help shape processes – partner not just on the tool, but on the task the tool is used for – a shared vision of where population health needs to go.”

In all possibility, as the market matures and vendors play the older merger & acquisition game, adding functionality along the way, population health will go the way of the EDIS. For now, it’s important for providers to own the vision and process of their population health goals and leverage strategic vendor partners to help them drive that vision.