Where you are located on the map can definitely play a role in the outcome of your health.  Population health management has become a very important issue to help reduce healthcare spending and improve patient outcomes.  It may be difficult to comprehend, but 20% of the population (Medicare patients) actually drives 80% of the costs in healthcare.  If there is a way to effectively manage that 20% of patients, there may possibly be a way to reduce the costs of healthcare across the board.

To effectively manage population health, it is necessary to first identify populations who are in the most need of healthcare interventions.  The best way to do this is through advanced technological capabilities that allow results to be monitored.  Then, programs can be established to improve the health of specific patient populations based on demographics and patient history.

One of the first steps is to create a patient registry to help identify segments of the population most at risk.  Information should be collected on family background, socioeconomic status, and mental health factors to determine at-risk populations.  Both social and cultural factors, as well as genetics and behavioral issues, drive the future of healthcare utilization.  Next, data analytic capabilities will be necessary to run analyses on particular sets of patients based on a diagnosis, for example.

Some hospital organizations have already begun experimenting with leveraged IT data analytics to improve population health management.  By examining their populations thoroughly and understanding where their greatest opportunities were, Aurora Health Care has been able to uniquely identify patients according to disease cohorts.  This allows them to predict which populations are at greatest risk for certain diseases.  This 15-hospital network in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is able to share data with primary care physicians to help patients in high risk populations with congestive heart failure and COPD.  After implementing this program, Aurora Health Care has seen a 60% reduction in hospital admissions for heart failure-related causes.

Through the advancements in population health management, doctors are able to treat patients in the early stages of their diagnosis based on the evident risk factors.  Dr. Richard Boehler, CEO of St. Joseph Hospital in New Hampshire, reminds us that “when you take people with risk factors and craft an intervention program for them, it can make a difference in preventing a heart attack or stroke.”  By implementing IT systems to more effectively monitor risk factors in patients early-on, people will be more knowledgeable about their own health and be given the opportunity to address their illnesses before their ailments become physically overbearing and costly.