Population health has been defined as “the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group” according to Improving Population Health. However, the definition is still abstract and has not reached its full potential.
Population health is now moving into the EHR space as a healthcare improvement initiative. The goal is for an EHR system to be utilized as a data collector made up of collected individuals’ health records, broken down into different population health segments. For example, let’s use the population of diabetes. Anyone who is diabetic and sees a care provider with an EHR will be represented as a small piece of data in the larger data base that contains the health records of all those with diabetes in the world. The vast amount of data on a specific health group will allow doctors to understand and better treat those with the same medical affliction.
Let’s go back to the patient with diabetes. Let’s say that they have a special case that requires more than just the basic prescription and instructions. Their doctor has been giving them a specialized treatment that has been working better than their previous treatment. This new specialized treatment has been recorded in their EHR, and would then feed into a large diabetes population health database – such as a clinical data registry. At another hospital, located across the country, a patient with a similar case of diabetes has entered her doctor’s office. The doctor wants to try a new treatment, but wants to see what other physicians have tried to get better results. After doing a little research, the data collected from the first patient is available, scrubbed of personally identifiable information as part of aggregate statistics on patients in this population, and the doctor can see how they were treated. The second patient is given the new treatment plan and their health and well-being improves.
This is the eventual goal for population health. The obvious issue will be working with HIPAA and patient privacy. However, one of the larger, more ambiguous challenges is how to have physicians utilize the data created from these EHR records to make informed decisions. HealthIT has an article that discusses the implementation of Population Health analytics in more detail. Although it won’t happen overnight, population health analytics will benefit the healthcare industry greatly with the potential to help patients all over the world.
In the second part of this series, we will discuss how your Learning Management System can be used for Population Health training.
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