Population health is a broad concept that is often overused and misinterpreted. Lately, this healthcare initiative has been a very hot topic and trend in the industry. 

As explained in our previous blog post, The Importance of Integrating Clinical Data into Payer Organizations much of the excitement around population health has overlooked the essential and challenging work of getting the organization's fundamental data acquisition and aggregation processes in order, to ensure the accuracy and success of the rest of the long journey to population health.

In this post we will focus on another somewhat overlooked step in population health: putting the insights gleaned from data gathering and analysis into action.

If data gathering and analytics have been managed effectively, organizations will find many useful insights into gaps in care and cadres of patients whose future outcomes might be improved with timely and effective interventions. The key is translating those insights into appropriate actions by kicking off care management workflows and prompting specific actions during the next clinical encounter.

The provider-patient clinical encounter is the most critical moment for population health initiatives. These encounters are where some of the most important data will come from to feed the analytics, and they are the point at which planning and analytics can finally be put into action in the form of a workable care plan designed to improve outcomes and lower potential costs.

Providers obviously play a vital role in developing, adjusting and carrying out effective care plans for their patients. As mentioned in our previous blog post, The Evolving Relationship Between Payers and Providers payers and other population health entities need to build trust with providers if they want to get productive, collaborative cooperation from them.

That means providing them with meticulously accurate data so they know they are getting good direction, creating feedback channels and generally working to make providers feel less like they have Big Brother watching over them, and more like they are part of a system that gives them truly useful tools for delivering even better care to their patients.

Once these steps are put in motion, payers need to offer good tools to make participating in population health initiatives fast, easy and effective. This includes the ability to embed useful and trusted prompts and information into the EMR or community-wide physician portal at the point of care so providers have the data they need just when they need it. It also means having well-integrated care management workflow tools that can translate analytical insights into action plans that include automated and care manager-driven interventions.

After all is said and done, payers and providers are increasingly well-aligned and motivated to work together on population health initiatives– they both want better outcomes, lower costs and higher satisfaction from their patients/members. In many cases, they still have historic and cultural differences to overcome, but smart use of technology can play a major role in overcoming those differences by letting payers give doctors useful information they would not otherwise have access to.

If technology can also make provider participation in population health initiatives a relatively painless and streamlined process too, then payers have a good shot at making sure their work to painstakingly assemble and analyze data for outcome-improving and cost-reducing insights actually gets put into practice.