KPMG: Population Health Taking Hold

Posted on January 31, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

A new KPMG survey has concluded that population health management approaches are becoming popular – and for nearly half of respondents, are already working.

According to the consulting firm, which reached out to 86 respondents working for a payer or healthcare provider, 44% said that they have a population health platform in place which is being used “efficiently and effectively.” Twenty-four percent of respondents said that they were in the process of implementing a pop health program within the next three years, while 10% said they had no plans to use such a platform. (Another 21% said that their organization didn’t need one.)

Thirty percent of respondents said that the biggest individual obstacle to implementing a population health strategy was aggregating and standardizing information from multiple sources. Meanwhile, 10% cited stakeholder adoption as a barrier, and 10% named integrating with clinical work flows as a key issues. Meanwhile, another 34% cited “all of the above” as a significant barrier, along with enabling patient engagement, funding investments and choosing the right vendors.

Along the way, KPMG asked respondents where they stood with value-based payments. Thirty-six percent said “some of our revenue is generated by value-based payments,” and 14% said that the majority of their revenue came from value-based payments.  As for those that weren’t there yet, 26% said they were planning to enter into value-based contracts within one to three years, while just 7% said they were not planning to do so. (The remaining 17% said they don’t require value-based payments.)

All that being said, though, there’s a problem here. And that problem is that while everyone seems to think they mean the same thing when they discuss population health management, I’d submit that in many cases they aren’t on the same page. In fact, I’d argue that until we get that straight, studies like these don’t tell us a lot.

Yes, I think we all have the same broad idea in mind when the topic of PHM comes up, which is to say that we envision a system in which a health system, ACO or health insurer sets broad goals for key health metrics across a population.  And as most readers probably know, the health insurance industry has been managing a population-wide set of standards known as HEDIS (the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set) for decades. HEDIS is designed to make apples-to-apples comparisons of health plan performance possible by providing very carefully defined criteria.

On the other hand, the number of technologies, approaches and philosophies being implemented by health organizations for population health management do no such thing. While there’s probably many areas of broad consensus on what should be measured – particularly when it comes to chronic, costly conditions like diabetes and heart disease — we don’t have any shared performance standard.

So before we look at pop health stats, it might be a good idea to clarify what that means to those answering surveys like this. Otherwise, it’s GIGO.