What to look for in population health at HIMSS15

 Dale Dubois

Population health efforts are intensely data-driven. Attaining the goals of those efforts will require that we absolutely master the art of capturing data, sharing data and using data.

We’re off to a very good start with data capture. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 75 percent of the country’s eligible professionals and more than 91 percent of hospitals are on electronic health records certified for Stage 1 meaningful use. With the vast majority of personal health information being recorded in a sharable form, we’re poised to accelerate population health IT. Now it’s on to the next set of major challenges, which will be front-and-center at HIMSS15: sharing data and putting it to beneficial use.

Charles Kennedy, MD, who serves as chief population health officer for Healthagen and the current payer representative on the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s Health IT Policy Committee, says recent efforts by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and strong support from the private sector to move towards value-based payment and population health strategies, are requiring a rethinking of health IT.

“Integrating clinical and claims data, supporting discrete data acquisition, and even advanced techniques such as semantic interoperability and clinical ontologies are in our future,” said Kennedy. (Disclosure: Dr. Kennedy and Healthagen are part of Aetna, the parent company of Medicity.)

These challenges are significant. Sharing risk requires sharing data. Managing risk requires precise analysis. For data sharing, moving forward will require health IT innovations. These innovations must unlock the PHI captured in EHRs and exchange it in a common format with different systems of varying purposes. Moving forward will also require analytics that make that data actionable. With those solutions in hand, we’ll be able to better identify populations, coordinate care across those populations and measure our success.

Stage 3 will drive innovation
Another major topic at HIMSS will be both the Stage 3 meaningful use and 2015 Edition Certification proposed rules. These rules were officially introduced by CMS and the ONC respectively on March 20. The rules are vast – covering more than 700 pages – but the overall message is clear. Stage 3’s purposes will include promoting greater interoperability, greater data portability and stronger standards to ease the exchange of electronic health information. Stage 3 will also aim to further privacy, security and patient safety. This is all about the data-sharing requirement of population health initiatives, and it’s extremely important.

Stakeholders in population health should look to HIMSS15 for innovations that don’t stop there. These innovations go further to deliver not just information, but actionable information. Here are a few types of solutions to keep on your radar.

Tools that aggregate data at the community level

Be on the lookout for data aggregation teachnology that gives community information with a longitudinal view of patient data. This is the starting point of enabling breakthrough analytics based on an accurate and complete picture of a population. The goal will be to get us past the duplicate information and exclusions that come with more limited data sets.

Technology for engaging the total population

Look for solutions that use community-level data to engage the total population with the right strategies for different types of people. To best improve the health of an entire population, we must engage the entire population. Today, we focus first on those whose chronic conditions cause them to use the most health resources. For example, we’re getting better at engaging diabetics. Once we can accurately identify the population of pre-diabetics, we can target them for additional interventions – and telephonics won’t get us there. New strategies will be needed for that group, and for countless additional high-risk and “rising risk” groups. Success with them all will require innovative solutions for engagement.

Tools that enable collaboration across providers, patients and payers

Also seek out technology that connect all population-health stakeholders for better collaboration. This includes collaboration among providers and also extends to patients and payers. As care payment models continue to shift toward value, and as providers and payers assume greater risk, they will need tools for collaboration and communication as they work to improve patient satisfaction and care quality while reducing unnecessary cost.

Solutions that analyze clinical data along with claims data – and even socioeconomic data

We have traditionally identified high-risk patients through claims data. Being able to identify rising-risk populations will depend on our ability to analyze clinical data as well. If we don’t have the right data, we can’t identify the right patients. Be on the lookout for solutions that help to identify missing or inconsistent clinical documentation to drive clinical insight. Look also for solutions that go further to accept non-clinical data to enable more effective engagement. For example, the single mother who works full-time while raising three children may need transportation to get to an appointment, or an hour of daycare so she can exercise. In these and other instances, the creation and refinement of new ways to drive actionable insight andpatient engagement strategies will be a boon to efforts to elevate population health.

Patient-centered technology for gathering clinical data

At this point in time, “clinical data” is mostly limited to EHRs, and the health data they capture provides an incomplete picture – snapshots of health at the time of doctor visits. While that’s a great start, the really big steps will come with patient-centered solutions for gathering clinical data, and they’re sure to be a major focus at HIMSS. Look especially for wearables that can track a person’s sleep, calorie consumption, blood glucose and oxygen levels, and more. The value of these solutions goes well beyond managing patients with chronic conditions. Collecting continuous data on populations as a whole, from the chronically ill to the healthiest, can contribute to the coming of big data in population health and fuel health management across the board in ways we can only begin to imagine.

See me at HIMSS15 in the Medicity booth

While there are many advanced technologies to focus on at HIMSS, professionals involved in any aspect of population health will especially want to seek out the kinds of innovations covered here. And while you’re there, please come by the Medicity booth (#3431) so we can talk about the future of interoperability and Stage 3 meaningful use. I will have attempted to completely digest the proposed rules by then, and will be happy to answer questions – and I welcome any and all who would like to try to stump me.

Healthcare student funding consultation launched

Dale Dubois

Consultation on how changes to student funding for nurse, midwife and allied health professional degree places can be implemented.

Under the existing system two-thirds of people who apply to become a nurse aren’t accepted for training. The proposals will create up to 10,000 more training places by 2020, allowing universities to accept more applicants with the right qualifications than they currently do. The plans will also offer student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals typically around 25% more financial support while they study.

The changes are part of a wider plan from the government to ensure the NHS can adapt to the changing needs of our population, train more nurses in England and reduce the reliance on agency and overseas staff.

Interested organisations and the public are asked to contribute to theconsultation which looks at how the changes can best be implemented. This includes looking at opportunities for students who apply for nursing, midwifery and allied health professional training as a second degree to be eligible for a student loan.

Health minister Ben Gummer said:

Since the wider reforms to higher education, our universities are offering more places and those from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to access an undergraduate degree.

Our proposed reforms will extend these benefits to nurses, midwives and allied health professionals, who have so far been excluded from these benefits. It is vital that the changes are implemented in the right way, which is why I would encourage as many people as possible to contribute to the consultation.

Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, Director of Nursing at Health Education England, said:

Health Education England is responsible for ensuring the NHS has the right people with the right skills, values and behaviours in the right place at the right time. This mission remains unchanged by the new funding arrangements for nursing and allied health professional university fees, which have the potential to increase the number of graduates available to the NHS by more than is possible under the current arrangements.

Our job, with universities and with the NHS, is to ensure that we continue to recruit high quality graduates to the service to support patients with safe, high-quality services in the future. We encourage everyone with an interest in delivering these services to patients in the future to make their voices heard in response to this consultation.

Plans to increase the nursing workforce also include the creation of a new nursing associate role, which will sit between care assistants and registered nurses, to give support to nurses. The department is working with representative organisations on the development of this role.

The consultation will run until 30 June.

HIMSS16 Live Blog: Complete summary of the major events

Dale Dubois

HIMSS16 is expected to be the largest showing ever for this annual healthcare technology conference and reporters from Healthcare IT News, Healthcare Financeand MobiHealthNews will be posting dozens of stories on the panel discussions, keynote presentations, product launches, breaking news and after-hours events happening at the Las Vegas conference. Keep checking this live blog, which features live updates from our reporting staff, key resources, great images and some of the trending posts on social media from the show.