- Just under 70 percent of family medicine residents feel adequately prepared to handle the analytics and care coordination strategies involved in population health management, according to a new study published in Family Medicine.
Using data from 2014 and 2015 surveys from the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM), which included more than 6100 responses, researchers found a high degree of comfort with population health strategies upon graduation.
Residents with degrees from international schools, as well as those with previous experience using health IT tools and those who had led quality improvement initiatives during their training, were more likely than others to report being ready to apply their population health skills to real-world patient management tasks.
The survey indicates that medical schools – especially international ones – may already be on the right track with educating their students about the need for team-based, data-driven approaches to chronic disease management, preventive care, and ongoing relationships with patients.
“As the United States shifts toward providing value-based care, new models of health care delivery are being implemented nationwide,” wrote University of Kentucky researchers Erica K. Schuster and Lars E. Peterson, MD, PhD.
“The concept of population health management (PHM) is growing in importance, as it underlies many changes in US health care such as accountable care organizations, clinical integration networks, and the patient-centered medical home (PCMH), and is central to meeting the triple aim for health care: better quality, lower costs, and healthier populations.”
The industry has seen an uptick in efforts to integrate population health education into the medical school environment during the past several years, led by the American Medical Association (AMA) and other organizations.
Enhanced informatics skills and more robust EHR training are among the AMA’s top priorities for the next generation of students, AMA President David O. Barbe, MD, MHA reiterated in his recent address at the society’s 2017 Interim Meeting.
“Our Accelerating Change in Medical Education (ACE) Initiative has made amazing progress just in the four years since its creation,” Barbe stated, referencing a collaborative effort between dozens of medical schools to enhance population health and informatics education.
“Schools are not just focusing on helping students become excellent clinicians, they are helping them understand the health system and training them to become physician leaders and innovators. Future physicians will be called on to lead the way in solving countless health care challenges.”
The AMA has repeatedly stressed the importance of developing health IT skills as a foundation for solving critical patient diagnosis and treatment problems in primary care and specialty practice.
“Our medical schools are very good at preparing students for the basic and clinical sciences that are essential to providing patient care. However, many residents and young physicians are coming out of medical school with gaps in their ability to practice in the modern health system,” said AMA Vice President for Medical Education Susan Skochelak, MD when announcing a new partnership with the Regenstreif Institute to encourage adoption of a clinical learning platform developed within the ACE initiative.
“Too often, students enter residency training without the ability to effectively and efficiently work with EHRs, even though they are one of the primary tools physicians use in everyday practice. That is why we have been working with some of the nation’s leading medical schools to develop bold, innovative ways to improve physician training.”
The ABFM survey supports the notion that EHR and health IT use are strongly correlated with the ability to succeed in the complex modern healthcare environment.
“Our finding that using electronic tools to provide PHM and preparation for PHM were strongly correlated is consistent with literature discussing health information tools as foundational components of PHM,” wrote Schuster and Peterson.
Early adopters of EHRs are more likely than other provider organizations to become accountable care organizations and patient centered medical homes, research from the ONC, CDC, and Mathematica Policy Research said in 2016.
EHR users were 15 percent more likely than non-users to successfully implement population health management techniques in their practice, and 25 percent more likely to maintain effective communication with their patients, the study found.
Paired with PHM strategies, EHR analytics, risk stratification, clinical decision support, and communication capabilities have also enabled providers to take a variety of proactive approaches to managing patients with costly and complex chronic conditions, such as cutting the rate of kidney failure in half for Native American adults, improving medication adherence, and lowering spending rates for Medicaid patients.
“This consistent, positive association between information health tools and PHM suggests that the support and improvement for information health tool education in residency programs may facilitate improvements in resident PHM education,” said Peterson and Schuster.
“Looking forward, as the medical landscape of the United States continues to change, it will be increasingly important to identify ways to improve population health education in medical training."