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Apr 22 2014
Population Health: Where do we go from here?

This is the third in a series of three articles about population health. In recent months we have used this column to discuss the topic of population health, which is a dynamic shift in the way medicine is currently practiced.

Our old hospital-centric system has primarily focused on treating sick and ailing patients, and only when they needed to be treated. It has proven to be one of the most fragmented and high cost systems in the world, for employers and employees: the average employee pays 62 percent more in annual premiums since 2003, and it will only get worse as the population continues to age.

So where do we go from here? According to the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute model, the care provided by hospitals and physicians accounts for a mere 20 percent of factors affecting a person’s health status. The other 80 percent comes from factors that are not clinical in the slightest: physical environment (10 percent), health behaviors (30 percent) and socioeconomic factors (40 percent).

But the good news is that local health systems and employers can work together to address the “80%,” by building and fostering relationships that encourage employees to seek care when needed and focus on preventive health and wellness behaviors … the right care in the right setting for the right outcomes.

A study by Aon Hewitt found that nearly 30 percent of employees do not have a primary care physician. However, this employer/provider collaboration can help identify the appropriate care for employees and provide the resources and process needed to access it. It’s win-win for everyone -- the hospital is ensuring that the employee is getting the right care, the employer benefits from reduced health care expenses and the employee is staying well or managing his/her condition and seeing lower insurance premiums.

Keep in mind that this is just one piece of the puzzle. Population health is also about relationships with local county health departments, United Ways, and many other charitable organizations. Working together to truly do what is right for the community and address the other 80 percent is going to take the cooperation of everyone calling Manitowoc County home.


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