How do hospital CEOs define population health?

Population health management is a concept embraced by the healthcare industry, but because there is no real uniform definition of the term, George Washington University's (GWU) online Executive Master of Health Administration program decided to ask healthcare leaders their opinions on what it really means.

The term first emerged in 2003, when David Kindig and Greg Stoddart defined it as "the health outcome of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group," according to the survey results

Some have noted, however, that this definition leaves out providers' role in improving health outcomes. Noting that "the clear consensus is it's time for an update to this definition," the GWU program asked a variety of healthcare leaders, including 11 CEOs, how they would define the concept.

While the responses varied, these leaders primarily described population health as "an opportunity for healthcare systems, agencies and organizations to work together in order to improve the health outcomes of the communities they serve," according to an advance copy of the survey results.

Some, such as Richard J. Gilfillan, M.D., president and CEO of Michigan-based Trinity Health, and Patrick Herson, M.D., president of Minneapolis-based Fairview Medical Group, referenced the Triple Aim of improved care, improved outcomes and reduced cost. Others, like Ryan Jensen, CEO of the Memorial Hospital of Salem County in Salem, New Jersey, tied the concept to the industry's transition from fee-for-service to value-based care.

"Population health signifies the movement from a silo-focused delivery of medicine to a communal effort with the purpose of improving the overall health outcomes of a population," Jensen said.

However it is defined, population health management has fueled a number of trends in the healthcare industry, including accountable care organizations, payer-provider collaboration and hospital-community partnerships. In the future, an increased focus on population health may also lead to more assumption of risk in the provider market as well as better infrastructure to manage risk, FierceHealthcare has reported.

To learn more:
- check out the survey results