Population Health

Decision Insights: Population Health Management

Population health management (PHM) is proving to be one of healthcare’s most fluid and fluctuating markets. Even after publishing two PHM reports—one in late 2017 and one in early 2018—KLAS knew there were more stories and different data points to be discovered. The Decision Insights—Population Health Management report includes data that supports the recent PHM reports as well as additional truths and surprises.

With everything from win-loss data to detailed customer commentary, KLAS’ Decision Insights research helps answer questions about vendors, products, and even the future. We can’t help but share at least a few of the biggest gold nuggets that we’ve learned from our provider friends.



What’s New?

While their limited number of verified customers kept them from being included as a fully-rated vendor in the report, HealthEC emerged as an unofficial vendor to watch.

HealthEC was the only vendor in our latest PHM performance study to have an average customer-satisfaction level of “satisfied” or “very satisfied” in all six KLAS-defined PHM functionality verticals. HealthEC works primarily with clinics and small hospitals in the Northeast but would like to expand throughout the US. As one customer noted:

“We saw demos and made sure that the product we chose was by far the easiest to navigate, use, and pull data from. HealthEC Care Manager was the best out of the products we looked at.”

Another key story is that Epic appears to have crossed an important threshold. Last year, many organizations noted that they had considered purchasing Epic’s PHM functionality but decided that it wasn’t mature enough. By the time we published this report, Epic had earned many additional wins.

More customers now see Epic’s tool as viable and are confident in Epic’s future progress:

“We don't feel as though cool tools are out of reach for Epic. We have watched Epic's tools be improved over the past few years, and the programming [in PHM] is getting better and better.”



What’s Working?

The top three reasons that vendors are considered in PHM purchase decisions are product functionality, market forces (such as consolidations), and company culture/customer relationships.

Vendors may have limited control over providers’ standardization choices, especially when they are not incumbents. But the ones (including A-list vendors Epic and Enli) who focus on providing the functionality that customers want and serving their customers well gain the reputation they need to keep current customers and win new ones:

“We thought we had bought a good product when we talked with Enli, went through the demos, and went through implementation. But Enli has far exceeded our expectations in terms of the product and the support.”

Most vendors realize the importance of providing topnotch functionality, but some are so eager to land customers that they make the biggest functionality-related mistake of all.

These struggling vendors don’t necessarily have poor functionality; they have undelivered functionality. In other words, they over-promise. Providers are too observant to fall for this often or for very long.

This is why the vendors who talk about what their tools can do today are standing out and those who lose trust through empty promises are falling behind:

“[One of our vendors] has been promising a very good population health solution for years, but nothing has happened. Every year, I am disappointed. I am just tired of pie-in-the-sky promises.”



What’s Coming?

“Do you see EMR vendors taking over the PHM space quickly?” I’ve been asked the question by KLAS colleagues and even a vendor in the past month. While some EMR vendors are making progress, I still feel that EMR vendors in general have a long road ahead of them before they will be able to offer complete PHM solutions.

They may have certain population health pillars—such as data aggregation and clinician engagement—tackled, but what about data analysis and care management? Niche vendors still have EMR vendors beat in those areas. For customers, functionality is still king, and EMR vendors simply don’t have it all yet:

“Overall, I think that our feeling was that [our EMR vendor] couldn't really do what we needed them to do [in PHM]. That kind of led us to see what a different vendor could do. We chose a different vendor. They seemed to have more subject-matter experts than [our EMR vendor]. Ultimately, we went away from [our EMR vendor] because of what they didn't have, not because of things they did have.”

One strength of KLAS’ Decision Insights data is that it highlights up-and-coming vendors. As KLAS publishes details about which vendors are being considered and why, the most promising vendors begin receiving more considerations.

We’re already seeing this virtuous cycle at work. Just since the April data deadline for this report, we have seen two of our most watched PHM vendors—whom we mentioned in the report as vendors that CIOs should keep their eyes on—break important barriers.

We anticipate that Arcadia and Health Catalyst will continue to earn more wins for their exceptional functionality. As we continue hearing comments from providers like these:

“Health Catalyst had the most complete solution. . .  They had 30 or 40 different apps that were very usable and intuitive. Users can click, point, and drag, and people can find answers to any questions.” 

“Arcadia Analytics' functionality was one of the key reasons we went with Arcadia. I wasn't terribly focused on functionality at the time, but my CIO made it a drop-dead requirement. I think our CIO saw the utility of the tool before I did.”

With so much intriguing and encouraging data, how could I not be excited to revisit Population Health Management in a future Decision Insights report?

Until then, KLAS will continue to watch this shifting market, share data from our other Decision Insights reports, and cheer on our vendor and provider friends making decisions that will influence healthcare for years to come.