What is population health? In the big schema of things, it is working towards improving the overall health of a group. Now how do you improve the overall health of a group? There are several approaches but here we will focus on how this is addressed in the U.S., where the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) has 6 standards for advancing in population health:
- Data integration
- Population assessment
- Population segmentation
- Targeted interventions
- Practitioner support
- Measurement quality improvement
The first step may just be the most important. The reason for this is that if you want to be able to look at and assess the needs of any population you need your software to work together in order to get coherent data. In todays age, we have the ability to collect, analyze and share data – something that wasn’t so easy to do twenty years ago. This data is useless to anyone unless the information can be shared. However, the issue arises when collecting data from different hospitals and facilities using different software. That is where data integration comes in. It is like a funnel that takes in information from multiple platforms but only has one outcome that everyone can use and understand.
The second step – population assessment – is where the data gathered can be looked at and analyzed. Data will reveal patients’ health as well as identifying any restrictions on patients’ well being and what is preventing patients from being healthy.
This step leads to population segmentation, which consists of two things. One, understanding the needs of the population and two, creating groups of care that are needed and the frequency of the care that is needed as well.
The next step that follows is targeted interventions, which is acting on the needs of the patients and the care that is needed.
Following this comes practitioner support, as the doctors and nurses seeing patients will need the tools and information regarding a patient in order to provide the most comprehensive and supportive care for the individual they are treating.
Last but not least, is the measurement of quality. With the patient data and tracking of the results of the care provided it is possible to conclude what is going well for the patient and what can be improved. This is of course an ongoing process in order to ensure the best quality of care for the patient.
The goal of population health is improving the care and support that patients receive. This should insure better health outcomes, and hopefully personalized care can help prevent the patient from needing other care, as the treatment is constantly evaluated.