Population health management improves the health of segmented populations and reduces care costs. Advanced population health initiatives require in-depth data analyses to identify trends across a targeted group. Hospitals that effectively leverage these trends can better understand the care requirements of specific communities, informing effective outreach. This highly targeted approach to population health can drastically improve care outcomes.
Many healthcare organizations aim to maintain the upward trajectory of population health initiatives by furthering current programs and reaching new patient populations. In a report detailing healthcare executives’ goals for 2018, 95 percent ranked population health between “moderately” and “critically” important for the future success of their organization.
In this post, we’ll dive into five population health management trends and discuss how healthcare organizations can leverage them.
1. Data Collection with Wearable Health Technology
In the last few years, the popularity of wearable technology has skyrocketed. The wearables market is expected to grow to $54 billion by 2023 (up from nearly $23 billion in 2018). Healthcare organizations have already begun to take advantage of the data wearable technology can provide, and this trend will continue to gain traction.
Wearable technology tracks health metrics such as heart rate, activity level, and sleep patterns. In recent years, more advanced health technology devices have been unveiled, including blood pressure monitors, seizure monitors, respiration rate, and even ECG data. This type of information helps patients passively track their health over time and allows them to share accurate data regarding their day-to-day health.
With the permission of patients, health systems collect, organize, and analyze this data. This data can be appended to existing data in a HCRM platform and used to derive consumer insights that inform population health marketing initiatives. Such campaigns are effective drivers of patient engagement—and therefore improved health outcomes—as their level of personalization appeals to consumers and encourages them to further their relationship with their provider.
In addition to guiding marketing efforts, analyzing the data from wearable technology can be leveraged on the clinical side. In one use case, Cedars Sinai found that data from cancer patients’ Fitbits could help them assess the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment. In a test of 30 adult cancer patients, Dr. Arvind Shinde monitored metrics like patient heart rates and miles walked during chemotherapy treatments and used this data to correlate patient activity levels with outcomes from cancer treatments.
With data from wearable technology, health systems have the opportunity to improve overall population health outcomes, treatment success rates, and readmission numbers.
2. Improvement of Vaccine Rates
Vaccinations are the cornerstone of population health efforts. However, recent CDC studies show immunization rates of certain infectious diseases have declined – in 2018, only 37 percent of adults received a flu vaccine. This represents a ten percent reduction in flu vaccination coverage since 2016.
One primary population health goal includes raising vaccination rates under-immunized populations. Those choosing not to receive vaccinations are considered at-risk populations, so healthcare organizations need to properly identify, target, and connect with such populations. Leveraging an HCRM, health organization identify vulnerable populations – especially those who are not yet patients but share similar traits as existing patients who fit a population criteria. A common example is seniors, and using propensity models, marketing can zero in on those who are not likely to have been vaccinated. By applying precision marketing strategies, marketing teams deploys a patient engagement campaign to the targeted list.
Health and wellness digital marketing campaigns complement targeted efforts and serve to remind patients of the importance of vaccines and encourage them to schedule a clinical appointment. Teams can slow the spread of dangerous health issues and reduce strain on the health system by improving vaccination rates in densely populated areas.
3. Overhaul of Opioid Prescribing and Treatment Practices
The opioid crisis resulted in overdose deaths of 70,000 Americans in 2017 and remains a serious issue facing the U.S. and the healthcare industry. More and more providers will increase their work to curb the spread of Fentanyl, heroin, prescription opioids, and synthetic drug abuse.
According to PwC, half of provider executives will focus on altering their prescribing practices for these drugs in an effort to reduce the number of patients who develop dependence through misuse of legally provided medications. Also, expect to see healthcare organizations work with payers, public health officials, pharmacies, community organizations, and first responders to take a more proactive approach to reducing opioid abuse.
In addition to this, many health institutes are focusing on the interaction between mental health and opioid use disorders. In 2019, research surfaced that drew a strong correlation between suicide and opioid abuse, with compelling evidence to suggest that poor mental health and chronic pain contribute to almost 30 percent of life-threatening overdoses. To resolve this, organizations like the National Institute of Health are calling for widespread collaborative care models to better treat an opioid user’s mental health.
4. Partnerships with Community Organizations
Social determinants, or socioeconomics, play an important role in health outcomes; food and housing security, transportation access, education, and employment all contribute to a patient’s ability to make healthy decisions and maintain wellness. To improve the overall health of patients of low socioeconomic statuses, healthcare organizations must appeal to these patients in meaningful ways. An effective way to achieve this objective is to work closely with community organizations that service these populations.
Community organizations have a deep understanding of where support is needed, and through partnerships health organizations can identify and direct resources toward priority issues facing these populations. For example, Duke University Hospital is one of the most active hospitals in Durham county. To provide better care to their local area, they serve as a lead member of the Partnership for a Healthy Durham. Together, they work with community organizations to assess health access, chronic illnesses, mental health concerns, and more.
When health systems integrate partner data into their HCRM, they can target populations that need their services the most. Both organizations can then combine forces to reach more people and provide better care in communities without regular access to these services.
5. Digital Security of IoT and AI
With the Internet of Things (IoT), health systems can access and analyze new patient datasets from medical devices, apps, wearables, home monitors, and more. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and applied analytics help healthcare organizations with administrative and marketing tasks, automating outreach by accessing patient data. While these technologies improve health outcomes and save health systems time and money, they also increase vulnerability to cybersecurity breaches.
One such breach occurred in 2019, where over 20 million patients were affected by the AMCA healthcare data breach. This breach went undetected for over eight months, and it compromised social security information, payment information, and lab test results. Now, AMCA is facing both legal and financial ramifications for the role they played in enabling and not reporting this massive breach.
However, it’s not only patient data that’s at risk – vulnerabilities in some healthcare devices can threaten a patient’s life. In 2019, the FDA warned consumers and health systems that several models of connected insulin pumps were at risk of a breach. According to the manufacturer, the vulnerability could allow an attacker to change insulin delivery settings, which could cause hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia. While this vulnerability was identified before any harm could be done, health systems must be mindful of bad actors before prescribing or leveraging connected medical devices.
As we head into the future, healthcare organizations must continue to prioritize customers and innovation to set themselves up for population health success. The most effective organizations will leverage technology, such as HCRM with marketing automation, to get to know their customers better – then, these insights will guide their initiatives and improve targeting and engagement strategies. In a changing healthcare landscape, data-driven organizations must identify needs within the community in order to execute more efficient strategies in support of population health.