This Month’s Healthcare IT News: Population Health

October 22, 2020 | By Wendy Bartlett

This Month’s Healthcare IT News_ Population Health

In recent years, population health has become an increasingly effective way for healthcare professionals to develop a stronger understanding and improve the health of their communities. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the need for proactive management of population health.

Let’s take a look at this month’s healthcare IT news on population health:

1. How Big Data, Analytics Drives Population Health, Closes Care Gaps

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 41 percent of U.S. adults reported delaying or avoiding medical care because of concerns related to COVID-19. Recognizing patient hesitancy as a barrier to access, some health systems are using big data and analytics to close care gaps.

Integrated networks allow providers to access patient data, as well as documentation around care gap closures. Using clinical and claims data, health systems can determine who has gaps, where the targets are geographically, what age group they’re in, and other relevant details. From there, customized outreach allows for improved gap closure and offers providers actionable information. 

[Infographic] See how two patients with the same clinical and financial  situation can have dramatically different outcomes based on their engagement  levels.

2. Accounting for the Social Determinants of Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Social determinants of health are essential for understanding why certain populations are particularly susceptible to chronic conditions, reduced healthcare access, and shortened lifespans. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, provider visibility into the health of populations has never been more important.

By combining technology-driven population health management strategies with targeted outreach, healthcare organizations can provide holistic support to help keep their communities healthy, both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, providers can begin to view the social determinants of health as “a fundamental component of the fight against COVID-19.”

3. Blue Shield of California Launches Interactive Community Health Dashboard

Recently, Blue Shield of California partnered with data company mySidewalk to develop an online dashboard that tracks community health needs. The dashboard pulls from dozens of sources to provide a look at health outcomes, care access, social risk factors, and more across the state of California. 

The health data shared on the dashboard will be made available publicly, allowing community health advocates to easily locate it, analyze it, and take informed action. Insights will include poverty rates, regional demographics, and more, empowering providers to tailor solutions to more effectively meet community needs. 

4. NYU Combines AI and EHR Data to Assess COVID-19 Outcomes

New York University (NYU) researchers have developed a model that can predict favorable health outcomes among COVID-19 patients. Electronic health record (EHR) data used in the model is based on real-time lab results, vital signs, and oxygen support variables. Researchers claim the model has 90 percent precisions and may help providers determine which patients are eligible for safe discharge from the hospital.

According to the NYU researchers who developed the model, accurate predictions can help “augment clinical decision-making” and address population management in hospitals. Clinicians can utilize the model to identify which patients are at low risk of an adverse event, ultimately helping to prioritize patients and make smarter discharge decisions informed by data.

5. Controversy: Researchers Claim Hospitals Face Barriers to Public Health Data Reporting

A research team from Harvard Business School recently published a survey highlighting the need for healthcare organizations to seamlessly share data with public health agencies. Despite the importance of public health data reporting, hospitals and health systems face a number of challenges, from interoperability to technological capacity.

Because inadequate resources have prevented public health agencies from receiving data from healthcare organizations, Harvard researchers suggest the public listing of electronic-exchange participants. The idea is that publicly listing data-exchange participants may provide a better understanding of who’s successfully sharing data, while also improving surveillance of both clinical and public health outcomes.

6. A New Health IT Discipline: Social Informatics

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to highlight healthcare disparities, with poor, minority, and underserved populations impacted at a significantly disproportionate rate. As such, healthcare organizations are placing increasing emphasis on social determinants of health and how health systems can address them to promote healthy communities.

WIth that said, documenting and managing different types of data—and then integrating them into clinical care workflows—is a major challenge associated with insights gleaned on the social determinants of health. Various medical organizations are now in favor of screening patients for social determinants of health and boosting technology systems’ ability to integrate clinical data.

These are just a few of the recent headlines in healthcare IT. Countless articles make the news each day, from population health management to digital health adoption and beyond. Struggling to keep up with the ever-evolving healthcare IT landscape? Subscribe to our blog for regular updates on the latest and greatest in the industry.

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