Healthcare Analytics, Population Health Management, Healthcare Big Data

Population Health News

Mental Health Top Priority for Population Health Management

A recent study shows that integrating mental and physical health records is important to advancing population health management.

By Jacqueline LaPointe

- Population health management aims to provide patient-centered and value-based care to improve the patient outcomes of a particular group. But could population health management goals be undermined if healthcare providers do not have access to behavioral and socio-economic data?

Integrating mental and physical healthcare key to population health management

According to a recent NEJM Catalyst survey, healthcare providers would invest more of their resources to integrating behavioral and physical health information in order to improve their population health initiatives were the resources available.

“American medical system has created false expectations. All cancers can be cured, surgery is the answer for heart disease, screening for everything detects all serious diseases,” said a survey respondent. “Early detection is the answer. Diet, nutrition, healthy life style, non-smoking, and moderation of alcohol consumption are simply not adequately emphasized.”

The majority of the 297 healthcare executives, clinical leaders, and clinicians surveyed stated that adding behavioral health services to routine care was a major priority.

The survey asked participants how they would spend $100,000 to change clinical practice to improve the health of their community this year. Investing in behavioral health and mental health services alongside physical health services (24%) was the top selection.

Respondents also claimed that integration of behavioral and physical health services was a long-term concern.

Integrating behavioral and physical health was still the most popular response (19%) when participants were asked how they would spend $1 million over the next ten years to change clinical practice to create long-term performance improvement.

Recent research showed that a majority of patients with chronic diseases experience major depressive disorder. Another study found that elderly individuals with feelings of extreme loneliness and isolation increase their risk of premature death by 14 percent.

These statistics demonstrate how healthcare providers, such as primary care physicians, may need the ability to treat the mental health of patients to benefit physical outcomes and overall population health management.

Researchers also found that socio-economic conditions, like behavioral health, have a significant impact on patient outcomes. Healthcare providers responded that the top social need issues are access to employment (47%), health insurance (44%), healthy food (35%), and housing (28%).

By establishing community partnerships, healthcare providers may help to alleviate some social burdens on patients.

Creating community partnerships with schools, food banks, domestic violence shelters, and other organizations was consistently one of the top three ways that healthcare providers would spend money to improve short-term and long-term health outcomes of their community.

Despite the need for improvement, the survey showed that healthcare providers are invested in population health management to improve care coordination and value-based care.

When asked to evaluate population health management on a scale of 0 (it’s a fad) to 100 (it’s critical for the future), the average response was 77.

Forty-two percent of respondents gave population health a score of 100.

“I only spend less than 1% of patients’ awake-time with them, so having input/structure to the other 99% is critical,” said a respondent.

Looking forward, healthcare providers are planning to keep investing in population health management.

The survey asked participants what changes their organization will undertake in the next three to five years to improve healthcare value without adding net costs to the healthcare system. The third most popular response was building a population health infrastructure (62%).

The top two answers were building and adhering to clinical practice guidelines (66%) and increasing asynchronous communication with patients, such as emails and tele-visits (66%).

As the healthcare system transitions to a value-based reimbursement model, population health management is an important tool for hospitals to improve care delivery and patient outcomes. Hospital revenue will depend on it soon enough.

Additionally, value-based care relies on more patient engagement. Patients need to interact with their health information to improve their outcomes. Population health management is key for connecting patients with their own health goals.

“Population health management is key to enabling people to take control of their health care needs,” explained a participant. “As the number of hospitals shrinks and the population ages there needs to be a mechanism in place by which providers and patients remain linked.”

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