There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about population health analytics, particularly among the general populace. Though it is beginning to be well-understood by clinicians across the country, the average patient may not be exposed to this flip side of healthcare. As such, they may not be enlightened as to how population health analytics can a) help improve the quality of health care received and b) mitigate overall medical costs.
To fully comprehend the positive role of population health analytics in everyday healthcare, it’s best to have a brief but vivid reminder of the recent history of the evolution of the healthcare industry, up to where it stands today.
In recent history, patient records were hardly accessible. They consisted solely of handwritten, color-coded, dog-eared charts filed on massive shelves behind beleaguered office receptionist desks. A classic example of the process of getting a patient chart to a specialist’s office would go something like this: Accessing one of these charts meant filling out a special request form, obtaining multiple signatures from doctors who may not be in the office that day, and then waiting for days until an over-worked and disorganized file clerk finally came across the requisition form and pulled the chart.
From there, of course, it had to be transported by special courier to the specialist’s office. The courier had a limited pickup and delivery schedule, so if the chart wasn’t in the bag when the courier came to call, the chart had to wait another day.
Meanwhile, the patient is at home, losing sleep, eagerly and anxiously awaiting the prognosis from the specialist, who hasn’t even got his hands on the chart yet.
Finally, the chart arrives at the specialist’s office, where it sits in his in-basket along with all the other charts that arrived that same day from the courier. Now the specialist is backed up, and can’t get to the chart for at least another day. When he finally is able to focus on the chart, hopefully, will the needed x-rays or information actually be inside? If not, the whole process has to begin again, while the patient is in limbo, waiting to find out what should happen from that point forward.
Data Shared is Data Utilized
That was the past. With the advent of population health analytics, where data is king, the speedy and efficient sharing, disseminating and transferring of electronic health records (EHR) is one of the core processes. In population health analytics, a system that evolved out of the brilliant concepts of W. Edwards Deming, noted professor, engineer and consultant, the capture and measurement of data is recognized to be the key ingredient in not only understanding the healthcare needs of a highly defined range of the population; but in measuring the results of applied healthcare over any specified range of time.
Spawning from this understanding that data must come first, medical offices and oversight organizations such as the AMA, instituted the electronic health records dictates. The ruling made it necessary for all clinicians to keep digital patient records.
Life Saving Data Management Tools
The next step was to make these digital patient records accessible across specialties and the wide variety of doctor offices. That’s where population health management software came into play. This is a patient records software management tool that effectively manages incoming data from patient records on a case by case basis, makes it universally accessible to clinicians, and allows for swift medical action within that specified range population demographic.
How does this translate to better healthcare and lower medical costs? Faster and universal access to global health data is good for everyone. When clinicians can accurately gather, sort and share health data, health trends can be quickly identified, viruses and diseases can be tracked, and potential threats can be predicated and prepared for. One recent example of this in action is with the most recent Ebola outbreak in Africa. The CDC relied heavily on population health analytics to identify the source of the outbreak, and to track its progression.
“Most people use statistics the way a drunkard uses a lamp post, more for support than illumination.” Mark Twain – author
When healthcare professionals have universal access to patient records, redundant testing and unnecessary procedures are kept to a minimum, keeping insurance costs down, and more money in patients’ pockets.
As the entire healthcare industry moves closer toward this new era of population health analytics, patients can expect to experience even greater improvements in their personal healthcare and in their overall medical expenses.