Population health management has become an important competency for hospitals and health systems. But the path to implementing effective public health strategies is fraught with challenges: monitoring chronic disease rates and preventing community transmission, classifying emergencies in routine health care circumstances, and executing preventive services all require providers to modify your traditional pay-for-service workflow.
Advanced healthcare platforms such as digital gateways are emerging as a response to some of these challenges. Digital gateways can help process vast amounts of demographic data related to community health and population well-being.
Healthcare IT News sat down with Keith Algozzine, CEO of UCM Digital Health, a provider of digital gateway technology, to handle the aforementioned challenges; how digital gateways can help with population health; how digital front doors work behind the scenes to achieve goals; and how digital gateways work with enhanced health benefits such as home care and treatment, virtual primary care, and therapies to empower a population to take control of their health for the better.
Q. What are some of the challenges facing successful population health management programs today?
A More and more organizations are looking for ways to improve the health of the populations they serve. They understand that “health” is more than just “medical care” and seek to have a positive impact on the state of health.
Implementing population health initiatives comes with challenges. It takes expertise and experience, which is why many organizations look to outside partners to help them implement health improvement initiatives. These initiatives are often outside the realm of direct care and fall into the realm of social determinants of health.
Once a population health initiative is defined, the challenge is to identify the right people for outreach and customize the approach to meet the unique needs of patients. Overall health depends on ensuring that patients receive timely and medically appropriate preventive care and that patients with chronic conditions are proactively followed up to prevent future complications.
There is no question that engaging patients and engaging them in their care is critical to improving health. For example, many patients know that there are things they can do to improve or maintain health, but they don’t do them because of non-health-related barriers.
It’s not enough to urge someone to see a primary care provider; we need to make sure they have transportation to get to the appointment and that their work schedule or other responsibilities and circumstances do not interfere, making it difficult or impossible to attend a medical appointment in person.
After defining and implementing an initiative, patient adherence, compliance, and outcome tracking are keys to continued success. Because data isn’t always seamlessly integrated at various points throughout a patient’s healthcare journey, providers and other organizations don’t always get a complete picture of patient compliance and outcome tracking.
A robust data platform can be effective in bridging this gap. It allows different organizations to have visibility into each other’s data and information, allowing for a more complete understanding of that patient’s health.
Q. You suggest that digital gateways can help healthcare provider organizations overcome some of these challenges. How?
A Digital front doors can be effective in removing barriers and ensuring that patients get a continuity of care designed specifically for their individual needs. Provider organizations are often unable to reach patients who would benefit most from population health programs.
Digital health and digital front doors can be an effective means of giving any patient access to a healthcare or mental health provider, removing barriers by allowing patients to connect via phone, chat, video, or even asynchronously . Care can start digitally, but can extend into the home with a mix of hands-on support from medical professionals working virtually alongside telemedicine providers.
Programs can be created to proactively identify and reach the right populations to conduct wellness visits, close gaps in care, and address social determinants of health by connecting with community resources, for example.
Moving a healthcare encounter to a virtual visit can break down a number of barriers and enable success in population health initiatives. For example, with digital first care, the patient does not have to worry about traveling and transportation to get to the appointment. It saves time and money spent on commuting.
Productivity is earned at work and at home. Stepping away from work or home responsibilities for a few minutes for a virtual visit may be more feasible for many people than spending several hours traveling to and from an in-person appointment. A virtual provider can even tour a home via video to identify hazards or other social determinants of health and help the patient with next steps to address them.
You can’t act if you don’t know. In a traditional healthcare environment, information is fragmented. Collecting health and non-health information allows you to determine actions that can be taken to improve a patient’s health. An effective data platform can facilitate data sharing and integration, giving providers and other organizations complete visibility into patient health information, including the ability to track population health program compliance and outcomes. .
An effective data platform can solve data interoperability issues, further enabling population health initiatives. For example, platforms may have the ability to understand and translate different sets of codes between organizations so they can come to a common understanding of patient data and information, ultimately improving health outcomes.
Q. How do digital front doors work behind the scenes to achieve these goals?
A Patients want convenience, and a digital front door can give them that. Digital front doors can be open 24/7/365, giving patients access when they really need it, with wait times that are often non-existent or minimal.
The quality of care is equal to, if not greater than, care provided in a traditional brick and mortar setting. Providers are often able to spend more time with patients and provide dedicated, personalized care and attention. For the patient, no time is wasted in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, where the patient is also at risk of being exposed to other diseases.
Patient compliance is also higher in the digital space, with data emerging from the National Library of Medicine showing that patients are less likely to miss a telemedicine appointment. And with care available on demand, no appointment is necessary.
A common data platform can be effective in connecting patient data across organizations for a complete picture of the patient, enabling whole person care and looking at the whole patient rather than discrete medical encounters and isolated.
It can be effective in bringing together multiple platform partners that can enable optimal patient care. For example, connecting a partner that provides home labs, along with a telehealth provider and a traditional primary care physician, to enable data sharing and collaboration with patient health, appropriate level of care, and best results in mind. like the goals.
Q. How can digital gateways with enhanced health benefits such as home care and treatment, virtual primary care, and therapies work to empower a population to take control of their health for the better?
A This really is the future of care. Digital front doors can provide a single point of entry and experience for the patient. They provide patients with access to enhanced benefits by offering access to a range of services for patients in a variety of care settings: virtual emergency and urgent care, virtual mental health care, virtual primary care, home care and more.
Patients can initiate care digitally, get full care virtually, or continue care at home, if and when needed. Patients can choose and are empowered to choose how and when to interact with the health system.
We are entering a digital landscape where doctors and paramedics can work together to provide care at home as an alternative to the ambulance ride to the hospital emergency room.
We’re seeing 911 systems that can now connect a caller with a nurse navigator or telemedicine doctor to address health needs without an hours-long wait in an emergency room, making care more accessible , economical and safe. And it’s using scarce health care resources wisely, for example by allowing paramedics and 911 centers to focus on true emergencies.
Digital front doors can offset many things that our healthcare system should be doing but isn’t doing. How much better off would a patient be if the health care provider checked back three days after a virtual visit to make sure treatment and recovery were going as planned?
How much more would that engagement and digital monitoring increase compliance with population health programs, along with patient satisfaction and overall health? A digital presence is clearly the future of care, allowing providers to make meaningful connections with the patient and other organizations and to engage the patient in their health.
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