What is population health all about?
Population health is one of the latest buzzwords bouncing around the health-tech scene, but what does it mean, how can technology help and what opportunities lie ahead for businesses and IT specialists?
What is population health?
The term population health isn’t as self-explanatory as it sounds. The term first came onto the scene in 2003, along with a definition that included: “The health outcome of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group.”
If you’ve heard of conflicts over that definition, then you wouldn’t be wrong. Certain experts and health professionals feel that this definition fails to highlight the responsibility of healthcare providers to impact the population’s health outcome positively.
But what professionals do agree on is the overall aim of population health: to improve the health of everyone, not just those sitting in the doctor’s waiting room.
What is population health management?
Population health management is the use of data to analyse population groups and manage specific illnesses and diseases within that group. Population health management aims to improve healthcare, prevent diseases, standardise care and reduce costs.
Why has population health become popular?
Public health has always been high on the government’s agenda, but a switch of focus to population health has occurred. Why? Firstly, people are living longer, which is causing an increase in chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and coronary heart disease. Secondly, we now have access to a vast amount of health data, and technology to analyse that data - helping us understand these chronic diseases better.
How can technology assist?
Technology has already paved the way for population health management but, as always, more can be done. Tech firms and healthcare providers are looking at technology to help with the following:
Traditionally, healthcare data has been kept under lock and key, with the sharing of personal medical records rare. Technology is changing this with the development of:
- Blockchain - enabling patients to take their full healthcare history with them wherever they go
- Inoperability - increasing the interaction between healthcare data and analysis systems
- Security - protecting data from cybercriminals and security breaches
Data analysis is at the heart of population health management and data mining algorithms are required to, for example, identify people at high risk of coronary heart disease, highlight people who qualify for new treatments, or even alert medical professionals of gaps in care.
Importantly, this data includes not only historic medical cases but also health behaviours, lifestyles, communities, transport, leisure and wealth.
It’s not only the health service who is responsible for population health. Technology can make individuals accountable for population health through education. For example, customised education packages can be delivered, giving advice and information tailored to a person’s predisposition to certain diseases. Or, social media can be used to send targeted advice on reducing blood pressure or checking for lumps.
And finally, technology is responsible for supporting medical professionals and individuals in their quest for population health. For example, medication reminders, gap in care alerts, robotic carers, and biometric monitors can all bypass human error and lead to better healthcare and management.
This is an exciting time for everyone in the health-tech scene, with plenty of IT jobs going and talented technical candidates eager to get involved.
If you’d like to see how Evolution can help your population health quest, schedule a call with me today.