Population Health

In recent years, greater emphasis has been placed on population health by both health care networks and insurance companies. Years ago, patients would see their healthcare provider to treat a specific injury, illness or chronic disease (i.e. diabetes, asthma, or heart disease). Now, a greater emphasis is being placed on improving or keeping the population healthy to help reduce the onset of an illness or chronic disease.

What exactly is population health? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states population health “brings significant health concerns into focus and addresses ways that resources can be allocated to overcome the problems that drive poor health conditions in the population.” In other words, population health identifies a specific concern in the population and looks for a way to address it. An example would be smoking cessation. Knowing the impact of smoking individual health and the overall population, many resources exist to assist individuals to reduce or stop smoking.

The focus on population health has not only driven hospitals and healthcare networks like Holy Family Memorial (HFM) to develop programs related to creating a healthier community, but also changed how hospitals are reimbursed. Traditional hospital reimbursement was based on Fee-For-Service or being paid for the service provided to the patient regardless of outcomes. Reimbursement today is moving quickly toward value-based payments or payments based on the quality of care delivered and the outcomes for the patient. If there is an adverse outcome and the patient needs additional services, then the hospital or healthcare network does not receive additional payments. They are responsible to address the outcome at no additional cost to the patient or insurance company.

There are many benefits for the broader community when hospital and health networks engage in population health activities, like smoking cessation. First, the programs focus on the reduction of preventive disease in the community. This results in individuals being able to continue a high quality of life. Second, the prevention of disease results in an overall decrease in the cost of care. It is more cost effective to maintain a healthy individual through preventive care versus treating a chronic condition such as diabetes or lung disease. Finally, a focus on population health engages patients and empowers them to manage their own health.

At Holy Family Memorial, the health of the community is a focus. It is in our mission statement that we provide services to help individuals and our communities achieve healthier lives by addressing acute and chronic illness, as well as addressing population health. Whether through health screenings to detect potential health issues, education classes to improve your health, wellness programs through the HFM Wellness Center or on-site programs for businesses, HFM continually works to improve the overall health of the community. All of these programs work to engage the community in addressing their health concerns, improving the quality of the experience and lowering costs.

About the author.

Brett Norell is president and chief executive officer at Holy Family Memorial. Reach him at bnorell@hfmhealth.org.