The CDC defines population health as an interdisciplinary, customizable approach that allows health departments to connect practice to policy for change to happen locally. This approach utilizes non-traditional partnerships among different sectors of the community – public health, industry, academia, health care, local government entities, etc. – to achieve positive health outcomes.
A good example of population health in practice is when providers analyze community data for insight and awareness on the role of genetics, geographic location, social environments, medical histories, and other influences that impact health status in a particular demographic. Once these metrics are uncovered, identified, and examined, communities can implement steps to address, correct, and work towards improved health outcomes.
Challenges Facing Population Health
The American health system is at a crossroads. It is facing a myriad of challenges related to processes and financial implications—the global pandemic inflated these issues exponentially.
Present-day operational stability is under immense strain from a variety of sources.
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports hospital subsector’s workforce dropping by nearly 90,000 people since March 2020
- The growing physician shortage is not showing signs of improvement; the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reports the U.S. could see a shortage of 37,800 to 124,000 doctors by 2034
- An excess of 10,000 Americans turn 65 each day and are fueling the aging population explosion
- By 2027, health care expenditures are expected to reach nearly $6 trillion
Digitally driven tools are swiftly being implanted across the health care industry to meet the heightened demand while also helping to streamline workflows and maximize available resources. Aligning as a natural partner and producing beneficial results, population health’s effectiveness, reach, and overall ability surges significantly when paired with digital front door technology.
The First Step in Population Health: The Patient
In the 21st century, digital front doors enable patients to connect with multi-disciplinary teams of providers, offering treatment and triage, no matter what time of day or night, and provide an extensive range of patient services including urgent, primary, and specialty care. Digital-first access allows seamless connectivity between physicians and patients, removing travel, distance, and schedule obstacles. Referral services or dispatching emergency services to the patient’s location are options when an in-person setting is necessary.
When it comes to a provider’s perspective, digitally integrated care allows instantaneous access to medical data related to population health, a synopsis of a patient’s medical history, pattern identification, and possible recommendations on interventions. These features can further assist in targeting specific symptoms and risk severity while keeping an eye on the patient’s well-being and quality of care.
Digitally integrated care solutions help remove structural complexities while also simplifying workflows. Expertise becomes streamlined and intuitive, allowing providers to digest population health data that ultimately helps not just the current patient but future cases as well.
The Key to Population Health: Data Efficiency
A key defining feature digital tools provide is the ability to precisely and instantly complete tasks that previously required extensive hours of manual data parsing—thus streamlining compliance and correcting erroneous data outliers. Another benefit to digital solutions is the ability to consolidate resources, easing the gridlock and relentless regulatory restrictions doctors continually face.
When implementing population health strategies from practice to reality, digital integrated care can hasten responses to interventions, restructure workflows, and provide opportunities for employees to spend less time on prolonged, manual, time-consuming tasks. Additionally, improving efficiencies can reduce financial expenditures, helping patients save money. As well, these enhancements result in increased time and resources with patients.
The Future of Digital Integration into Population Health
Digital technology enables providers to have a better understanding of populations and the individuals comprised in a targeted set. This drives meaningful engagement and has the potential to elevate just about every interaction between a patient and their physician throughout the health care journey; aligned with population health strategies, digital technology can help improve access, reduce expenditures, and enhance care results.
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Keith Algozzine is co-founder and CEO of UCM Digital Health. A board-certified Physician Assistant, he was formerly the Chief PA of Emergency Medicine for St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy, NY, where he witnessed firsthand the challenges of the modern healthcare system. Keith was also part of the national ER startup management team for Pegasus Emergency Medicine. He represents UCM Digital Health on the American Telemedicine Association Accreditation Advisory Board and serves as an advisor to the Clinical Practice Guidelines Committees dealing with telemedicine considerations for urgent and emergency care.