Population Health Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak

Population health programs are critical for people suffering from a variety of chronic conditions and other life-issues that often complicate health, wellness and the provision of medical care. In the current coronavirus pandemic, these programs have become even more important to participants and more difficult to operationalize. There is no doubt the pandemic has negatively impacted population health programs, which are often delivered as one-on-one, in-person programs. In addition, social determinants of health, such as transportation and difficulty obtaining food, play a major role in these programs.

The next article in our series is by Natalie Godwin, director of Product Consulting, Payer and Provider Solutions. She looks at the importance of analytics on population health programs.

Even with some in-person meeting and shopping restrictions easing nationally and locally, substantial concerns remain for the underserved with chronic conditions participating in population health programs. Nevertheless, programs that employ data analytics can, especially during the pandemic, use the information to make better decisions on how the program is delivered.

If you want to discuss how to improve your organization’s population health program during and after the pandemic, please fill out the form below, and we’ll be in touch.

Thank you and stay safe.

Andrea Sorensen, associate vice president, Product Consulting, MedeAnalytics

Population Health Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak

By Natalie Godwin

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, each of us has been flooded with a deluge of news sources, stump speeches via social media from friends and family, and local, national and health agency briefings. We are simply drowning in information.

In speaking with many colleagues throughout the provider and payer healthcare community, I’ve found an overwhelming sense of helplessness to the outbreak’s onslaught. This is exacerbated by the constant evolution of reported underlying medical conditions that indicate a higher risk of hospitalization or mortality for a coronavirus patient. Undoubtedly, I am unqualified to share a complex antidote to the coronavirus, but I do want to examine a key component of many of these conversations, official briefings, stump speeches and news reports: population health.

The Importance of Population Health

Healthcare forever changed when “Population Health” was defined by David Kindig, MD, PhD and Greg Stoddart, PhD in 2003. While the concepts of attribution, dependent variables and the spectrum of determinants were familiar to many in healthcare, this definition and the groundbreaking article gave demarcation to the health outcomes of a group of individuals, patterns of health determinants, and policies and interventions that may link the aforementioned concepts. The encompassing phrase “Population Health” is fairly new in the history of healthcare and is confusing to many individuals in the healthcare field, as well as to those individuals hearing the phrase for the first time in a news article linking coronavirus complications to overall population health.

The health outcomes of a population (or population health) are driven by diverse factors. These include genetics, behaviors (diet, exercise, smoking), social determinants (employment, access to healthcare, availability of healthy food, poverty, where one lives) and environmental factors (occupational, water safety). Governmental agencies, healthcare providers, healthcare payers and others use these factors to assess the risk of a certain population using healthcare analytics solutions and advanced modeling.

Once the population has been ascertained and its members evaluated, there is an opportunity to deploy population health and care management protocols. These programs may include partnering with rideshare companies for free or low-cost rides to preventative medicine or other healthcare services, deploying nutritional intervention in areas without safe or consistent access to healthy food options or providing care management services for those with, or at risk for, chronic conditions. While the sometimes-perceived invasiveness of population health—and its ability to drive change—may be debated from a social and political perspective, it is the basis of the calling for every physician and provider I know: to help people live their healthiest lives.

This is where population health deeply impacts the coronavirus pandemic. 

Population Health and Coronavirus

People who are part of population health programs generally have one or more chronic conditions that often lead to compromised immune systems. As we know, a compromised immune system makes one more susceptible to COVID-19.

With the established definition of population health, it makes more sense why this term is central to many of the discussions and guidance from experts and leaders surrounding COVID-19: 

  • Those who live near one another? That is part of their population factors and is causing the potential for less social distancing and the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
  • Those who have COPD, diabetes and other chronic conditions? These chronic conditions are part of the ever-increasing list of high-risk conditions causing patients to have increased case severity.

The genetics, behaviors, social determinants and environmental factors of the population are vital to consider, analyze and manage during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond. Population health programs are a lifeline to many people around the world in regular times; in extraordinary times the programs become more important.

Understanding and acting on the population’s continuing needs is crucial to helping them weather the coronavirus pandemic. A meaningful way to maintain and even improve a population health program today is through data analytics. By actively monitoring population health program members via analytics, organizations can use telemedicine, care management, or other means to reach out with healthcare professionals, who monitor the ongoing health and wellness of participants.  

Please take care of yourself and one another during these unprecedented times.  

Please fill out the form below if you want to talk about how to improve your organization’s population health programs during and after the coronavirus pandemic.

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About the Author

Natalie Godwin brings more than 17 years of payer and provider healthcare experience to the MedeAnalytics Product Consulting team, where, as a director, she focuses on value-based performance management, and cost and operations. She uses her industry roles to work with clients and guide product development in hospital supply chain, hospital throughputs, population health, care management, quality and outcomes improvement as well as payer operations.

Additional information about population health and other COVID-19 details can be found at the following websites:

Product Consulting Team

With over 135 years of combined experience, the MedeAnalytics Product Consulting Team offers in-depth domain and product expertise to help payers and providers address their most significant analytics challenges and deliver measurable impact.

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