Emerging hot career role: Population health information management

Population health management will offer a huge opportunity for health information management professionals who gain expertise in the new specialty, according to an article published in the Journal of the American Health Information Management Association.

"While most healthcare providers see the critical importance of [population health management], they do not have the information technology, the required understanding of [population health information management], or the data-management skills and resources [neccesary to use it]," writes Bonnie S. Cassidy, senior director of HIM innovation at Nuance Communications.

HIM professionals must take the lead in information governance, clinical documentation integrity and quality data analytics to help organizations understand how the flow of information affects efforts to manage population health, she says.

Implementing EHRs won't be enough. EHRs generally don't contain information on the care that patients have received outside an organization, and they aren't designed for interoperability, she points out.  Population health management means using EHRs and physician practice-management systems to identify gaps in care, stratify risk, provide care management, and evaluate performance. It might mean identifying and reaching out to those with diabetes and high blood pressure who have not been to see their doctor in a while. 

Data analytics can be used to help build rules-driven alerts for the care team for more effective preventive care and chronic disease management. She foresees population health management being integrated into EHR systems, requiring PHIM pros to have deep knowledge of this technology to provide recommendations to care teams on clinical documentation.

"Those excelling in PHIM will be able to innovatively assess and stratify patient demographic and ICD-10 data into existing and emerging categories, such as categories for those that are well, at risk, and living with chronic conditions," she says.

Beyond data integrity, she foresees the role expanding to data privacy, security and more.

Big data could save U.S. citizens as much as $450 billion in healthcare costs, consulting firm McKinsey & Co. reported recently, though some fundamental changes are necessary to achieve that. Despite all the data collection they're doing, healthcare organizations are still struggling to figure out how to gain insight and take action on it to improve care.

Daniel Newman, MD, chief medical information officer of MEDfx, recently called analytics, care improvement and patient engagement the three pillars of population health management.

To learn more:
- read the article from the Journal of AHIMA

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