mHealth Summit 2014: For population health success, understand your community's phenotype

For population health management partnerships to be successful, it's important to figure out and understand the phenotype of a community, according to Dana Ball, executive director of the T1D Exchange, which looks to facilitate better care for type 1 diabetes patients.

Speaking on a panel at the mHealth Summit in the District of Columbia on Monday, Ball (pictured right) said that intimately knowing your community and what its members value should be objective No. 1 prior to trotting out potential technological solutions to their problems.

"Create your community--and don't create the community that people are sometimes tempted to create that's one dimensional," Ball said. "Don't limit [efforts] to the early adopters and the people who are the wind beneath your wings and you're all going to fly off and get hugely successful concepts. Make sure you round out that community with the not-so-early adopters, the naysayers and the people who are reluctant to change, both clinicians and patients."

With that in mind, Sarah Myers (pictured left), executive improvement director at ImproveCareNow--a collaborative network that works with 71 care centers in 34 states and London to improve care efforts for children with irritable bowel syndrome--said keeping all patients engaged in their own care is vital.

"Try to think of how you can use the [people] who are doing well and use them as the input into your systems rather than the output," Myers said. "When they're doing well, [patients] remember what it's like to be in those down periods; that's the time to see them as co-producers and partners in the next big thing that you're going to develop. They know what it's like to have challenges taking their meds and producing the self-care necessary when they're sick. … There will be times when they have a flare-up again, and you can't let them leave the system into which they're co-producing."

Additionally, Myers said, all entities involved in population health management efforts should have frequent checks in place to determine where improvements may be necessary. Because her organization works with 70-plus partners, she said it asks four questions to ensure unified efforts:

  1. Do I know who to go to when there's a problem in this community?
  2. Do I know my role in this community?
  3. Do I feel hopeful for the community of this partnership?
  4. Can I still state the measurable goals of this partnership?

"Those may sound very touchy-feely, but I can't tell you how challenging it is when you have people with different languages, different ways of talking about things, being really transparent and open and having those types of conversations to keep the partnership open and moving forward," Myers said.

When it comes to population health management and prevention of chronic care diseases, Kim Ryan, CEO of Eastside Medical Center in Snellville Georgia, said that healthcare leaders and hospital executives have a personal and professional responsibility to lead by example.