Value-based population health: What does it take to succeed?

Don Casey MD, MPH, MBA Don Casey MD, MPH, MBA
Chief of Clinical Affairs

This three-part blog series covers topics of importance to population health initiatives in the U.S. today and shows examples of organizations that are successfully incorporating population health programs to improve care quality and reduce healthcare costs. Read our first post here, covering the importance of better price transparency and what organizations should do to prepare for industry changes as a result of healthcare consumerism.


Part 2: Value-based population health: What does it take to succeed?

By Don Casey, MD, MPH, MBA, Senior Vice President and Chief of Clinical Affairs, Medecision

Population health initiatives often focus on reducing the total cost of care, especially as health systems navigate their slowly evolving shift from traditional fee-for-service to value-based payment contracts. Many leaders of these organizations recognize that true value-based population healthcare success requires extensive collaboration across community partners and an accountability model that can grow and change as local needs evolve. In other words, health systems need to step outside of their walls and partner with a variety of community organizations that span the complete care continuum. No single organization can tackle this issue alone.

Achieving value-based population healthcare with collaboration

Community leaders should synergize their individual efforts together through a multi-component action plan that addresses the unique health needs of local populations. Effective population health strategies must focus on successful delivery of proven, evidence-based interventions that have the greatest likelihood of improving the health status of a targeted population. For example, many communities start by focusing on the most disadvantaged and vulnerable populations (e.g., those with low socio-economic status, serious mental illnesses, homeless, etc.).

Once the unique needs are identified for those individuals, value-based health improvement programs can be tailored to directly address social determinants of health, such as housing, access, transportation, and nutrition. Well executed value-based population health initiatives also enable better coordination of care and supportive community services across the care continuum.

Accomplishing this requires effective alignment of disparate stakeholders, data to reach consensus on the right opportunities to address collaboratively within a community, technology to optimize patient engagement, and the assurance of shared accountability among diverse organizations used to viewing the community through their single point of view. Hence, successful value-based population health efforts require leaders to “check their hats” at the door and sit a single table with other collaborators to solve complex problems together.

To truly achieve value-based population healthcare, it’s imperative for health system executives to view population health through the lens of social determinants of health and understand how these needs vary across communities. Local environmental and societal challenges can significantly influence the health and well-being of individuals in that community and play a key role in understanding how to improve outcomes, particularly among individuals with high-cost, high-health risk conditions.

Zeroing in on the population health needs of every community is within our reach. A steadfast willingness to work in new ways across many diverse community organizations is the most critical step to achieve a lasting, measurable and successful impact on those citizens whose health will directly benefit from such initiatives.

In the next blog in this series, we’ll look into the role of performance incentives and payment policies and whether performance measurement is addressing the right issues.

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