2015 Health Technology Forum’s Innovation Conference Tackles Population Health Management Challenges

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2015 Health Technology Forum’s Innovation Conference Tackles Population Health Management Challenges

The Health Technology Forum’s (HTF) 2015 Innovation Conference in San Francisco featured a panel discussion on Population Health Management, spurring conversations around key drivers of transformative care delivery and the innovative business models and strategies required to support various population-based needs.

The panel, titled “Transforming Your Organization to Support Population Health Management” was moderated by Sia Zadeh, the Regional VP of Sandlot Solutions. The panelists addressed key population health questions that are propelling strategic planning discussions today:

  1. How do organizations define population health?
  2. What are the key drivers of transformative care delivery and the business models that support them?
  3. What innovative intervention strategies have been designed/implemented for various population needs?
  4. What is the role of analytics? What tools, skills, and processes need to be in place?
  5. What are the challenges organizations face in managing populations?


Different Branches of Healthcare Industry Come Together To Address Issues

The panelists represented viewpoints from various segments of the healthcare industry – provider, employer, payer, and supplier. Each panelist discussed their organization’s experiences implementing the changes needed to move toward value-based care and population health management. The panel participants included:

  • Susan Merrill, Ph.D.: Consultant at Freed Associates, a California-based consulting firm comprised of experts who work exclusively in healthcare


  • Aimee Leidich: Program Manager at UCSF Global Health Sciences, supporting data-based HIV programs in Africa and the Caribbean


  • Amanda Goltz: Director of Product Strategy and Innovation at Aetna, engaging large employers on wellness and consumer health


Aimee Leidich kicked off the conversation by stressing the importance of stratifying populations when thinking about population health. Defining groups within a population provides an opportunity to refine data collection and data uses in order to better assess and understand population health trends. The goal is to provide targeted and tailored health services to those at greatest risk and be able to ensure long-term solutions.

Aimee also described her program’s innovative strategies currently employed in rural Africa. In a region where Wi-Fi access is not widely available, data is transmitted using SMS, and sent to a repository that then populates an analytic dashboard. Local care providers are trained in accessing and using these free dashboard tools to analyze and interpret their data. Simplifying and tailoring data collection and usage tools for local care providers with limited resources is a process that could also be applied here in the U.S.

Looking at population health domestically, Susan Merrill of Freed Associates brought what California ACOs, medical groups, and health system clients are focusing on to the table. From her perspective, ACO clients have largely focused on financial strategies as they relate to mitigating population-based risk and less on care model design, where more attention should be focused. Some of the important operational questions that clients are asking include how to better utilize and leverage their current tools and technologies, address data quality issues, staff their care management teams, and use analytics to assess ROI. Healthcare organizations have the opportunity to develop a strategic plan centered on population health, that assesses critical gaps in data utilization and creates new models of care management that are inclusive of all participants sharing in risks/rewards: insurers, providers and community-based organizations.

Viewing population health from a different lens, Amanda Goltz from Aetna Product and Strategy Innovation described how large self-insured companies are counterbalancing risk by exploring and putting into place new employee wellness programs. There are distinct challenges related to providing tailored community or wellness programs to improve employee health. First, data today is highly structured and siloed. Assessing the success of wellness programs becomes difficult when only clinical treatment events and some health outcomes are captured as structured data. Amanda also acknowledged the “last mile” challenge of bringing local providers into the fold as active participants in employee wellness. Lastly, incentivizing and changing behavior is a challenge not only on an individual level, but on a societal one as well. Aetna envisions innovative ACO joint ventures as a way to impact population health by strategically modeling incentive payments, employee engagement, and community organizing around defined population health goals.

In closing, Sia Zadeh acknowledged the population health challenges that organizations must consider. Global enterprise strategies must incorporate the many different aspects of population health such as chronic disease management, high risk populations, health and wellness models, social determinants of health, technology and tools, and new models for payment.

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