Would you prefer to solve a problem a thousand times or solve it once and use the solution a thousand times? The latter makes far more sense and helps explain why population health management has become a popular approach in the industry.
For decades, the approach to healthcare was a reactive one. The system dealt with people at the physician’s office or clinic when possible and then escalating to hospitals when sickness was critical. However, the approach is ultimately inefficient, as companies that use complex machinery generally know. Preventative maintenance keeps equipment running longer and makes expensive repairs less likely to be necessary.
Population health care combines the two ideas of preventative maintenance and solving a problem once. Using data, care providers look at groups of patients that share certain characteristics and then apply strategies and interventions to improve health at the lowest cost. The emphasis is on prevention to avoid problems in the first place.
But according to healthcare consultancy Kaufman, Hall & Associates, an organization has to focus on four goals to use the model and make it work.
1. Commit to the new approach
Change is difficult to bring to any organization. Inertia, personal resistance, and habits all fight the desire to do something new. Simply declaring that “we will now adopt something new” isn’t enough. The organization has to understand what will be required, recognize the potential hurdles, and recognize that they can’t have the new while holding the old. For a hospital, as an example, that means acknowledging that it is no longer in the driver’s seat regarding how healthcare is structured. To work within the new regime, leaders have to look at the new structure and reexamine the most basic assumptions of purpose and mission.
2. Build agility
Because the needed change is so extensive, the organization needs agility, or the ability to manage ongoing business while transitioning to a new approach. This is the bureaucratic form of rubbing your stomach while patting your head, except it’s more complicated and far more difficult.
3. Experiment and innovate
There is no set direct path from points A to B in making the change to population health management, even though there has been a long-standing demand for better value and effectiveness. Leaders will have to examine new models and business processes and try new approaches to see what works. Not everything will, so leaders then have to be ready to shift gears.
4. Use integrated planning
Changes need to happen in marketing, operations, technology, business processes, and clinical practice to support multiple scenarios that can address changing conditions. Leaders will have to identify dependencies and contingencies to know in what order things need to happen. All this must be based on fact and financial and clinical realities.
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