Healthcare Analytics, Population Health Management, Healthcare Big Data

Analytics in Action News

Docs see promise in population health, patient engagement

By Jennifer Bresnick

- Patient engagement programs that lead to better population health management are among the few things physicians are looking forward to in 2014 amid a rather gloomy outlook for the future of healthcare.  Results from the second annual Practice Profitability Index (PPI) indicate that while physicians are lamenting an ongoing dip in reimbursements and considering selling out to larger organizations, 40% believe that making patients partners in their own care may help to improve the system and claw back some of the lost profitability of the traditional practice.

Thirty-nine percent of physicians polled for the PPI survey believe that they will see declining profits in 2014, with regulatory pressures, the transition to ICD-10, and ongoing healthcare reforms required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) all eating into their bottom lines.  While EHR adoption and meaningful use fell relatively low on the list of financial concerns, the new provisions of the ACA, which bring a flood of previously uninsured patients into the system, remain a top worry.

To counter the negative impact of the need to care for millions of new patients who may have let chronic diseases run their course when they couldn’t afford treatment, providers are turning to population health management techniques, patient engagement, and cooperation with other care providers to combat the costs and reduce inefficiencies.  Four in ten providers believe that engagement and disease management can help to close financial gaps, while 21% are seeking better coordination with partners to ensure that patients receive care proactively.

However, shifting to a population health management ecosystem is not without its own costs.  The administrative burdens of following up with reminders for routine care or missing labs, among other tasks, is taking up a great deal of time and effort.  Seventy percent of physicians say they now spend more than one full day a week on paperwork instead of patient care, a significant increase from 56% last year.  Nearly one in four spend more than 40% of their time on administration, the survey showed, compared to just 15% in 2013, which may be a part of the decision of 47% of providers not to accept new ACA patients.

In response to the avalanche of growing concerns, nearly a quarter of providers are considering selling out, while an additional 12% have already decided to do so.  Independent practitioners have been decreasing steadily, other surveys have found, as physicians who feel overwhelmed with the business side of private practice relinquish their autonomy for more financial security and the chance to focus more exclusively on patient care.  As healthcare providers consolidate, patients may feel less personal attention, but may also benefit from the more robust population health programs and outreach services that larger organizations appear to want to offer them.

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