What is True Population Health Management?

“Population health” is now a popular buzzword and all the rage, whether you are talking to disease management vendors, providers, employers, IT companies or even health policy wonks. But in my experience, far too many of us use that term too liberally, without really understanding what true population health management entails. And then sometimes we throw up our hands too quickly when our so-called population health programs don’t succeed. So what is true population health management?

Any population health program should start with identifying the population and conducting some form of an assessment; then amalgamate those assessments to determine the overall health of the population and stratify the population into risk buckets. This is followed by the all important and difficult engagement, and then person-centered, evidence-based interventions. These interventions must be tailored to meet the needs of each person. Too often, we focus just on disease specific interventions in this stage, when we should also be examining the workplace, home, community and other environments and full range of community resources. For example, how is a diabetic supposed to come in for regular treatment when he or she can’t drive and there is no public transportation in place? The final important step is impact evaluation—we need to understand how our interventions are working across the risk continuum. This can help us refine and readjust our approach if needed.

I’m truly looking forward to our 16th Annual Population Health Forum, where we will learn from the experts about the best ways to approach each of these crucial steps.  I’m pleased we’re really giving person-centered intervention the recognition it is due by making this year’s Forum theme “Welcome to Health.  Population of One.” Too often we get frustrated trying to decide how to improve the health of a large population — the task just seems too massive. It is critical we remind ourselves population health management creates improvements by focusing on the needs of one person.

In the coming weeks I look forward to having a robust conversation with all of you about the strategies and programs you have used to successfully change population health. What examples have you experienced first-hand where the change in population health started with just one person?

%d bloggers like this: