Filling in the blanks in population health

Hospitals are trying to manage population health using incredibly incomplete data--in some cases, data from an inpatient visit perhaps once a year, writes Paul Roemer, CEO of Pale Rhino Consulting in an article at

Hospitals need to fill in more data--perhaps from people who have never even been to a hospital--and for the other 51 weeks a year. The key to doing that is to make people care about the hospital's efforts to improve health for everyone, he says. They have to see that they're getting something out of it.

The CIO can play a pivotal role by leading efforts, for example, to produce an app that allows patients to track their own health and supply that information to their physicians. The apps can track:

  • Whether patients are taking medications
  • Side effects of those medications
  • Lab results
  • Therapy results
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Pulse and blood pressure

There are plenty of health-tracking apps, but providing that information to be shared offers the potential for hospitals to make improvements, such as reducing its number of readmissions, he writes.

Population health was a hot topic at the 2014 American College of Healthcare Executives Congress in Chicago in March, with various organizations taking different approaches.

Data about individual patients collected every day in doctor's offices and hospitals could be used to create a learning healthcare system to improve care among the population at large, an Institute of Medicine discussion paper proposed.

However, Jason Burke, a senior advisor for advanced analytics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, has argued for new approaches, saying population health management offerings these days look "remarkably like yesterday's offerings." He's calling for better predictive models and real-time intervention capabilities.

"Health organizations need a balanced portfolio of health analytics capabilities--some focused on supporting the status quo, and others helping the organization to pursue more strategic goals," he says.

To learn more:
- read the article

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