Doesn’t it feel like every other week there is a new buzzword or phrase that has made it into mainstream conversations. I’m not talking about all the Millennials who mash up or simply redefine words, but more along the lines of technology-based vocabulary that has substantial meaning and true power in interpretation. This is the case within healthcare due to the huge leaps and bounds that are happening within this industry. One of those key phrases being bantered about more and more is population health. As a result, population health management companies are on the rise, hoping to sell a healthcare organization software specific to helping better manage the population to which that organization serves.
Starting back at the beginning, a basic and well-accepted definition states it is "the science and art of prevention disease, prolong life and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private communities, and individuals."
When it comes to new ideas that need to be implemented and understood, you will find an abundance of both new and established companies ever so willing to provide the system to make this happen. Population health management companies (PHMC) or vendors have some pros and cons that they are working with.
Positives of Population Health Management Companies
Due to the newness that PHMCs have to the concept as a whole, there are many companies seeking to have a corner on the market and stand out as the population health leader. This allows the healthcare organization to select from a variety of vendors rather than being limited to just a couple.
Because there are so many PHMCs vying for an organization’s business, there are an assortment of different ways fulfilling the statement above can be accomplished; every vendor seeks to solve the issue from a different perspective, thus attacking the problem from a distinct point of view.
Adverse Aspects of Population Health Management Companies
With the inexperience of all vendors to the population health situation, there is much that isn’t understood, and growth in the subject that will come over time. This short-coming means there will be updates to the software that will have unknown effects, there will be changes to internal definitions that will have to be overcome, and there will be regulations that come down from the government as expectations are set into standards for the industry.
With so many different companies competing for business and a few handfuls of healthcare organizations in search of population health software, this means that each PHMC only has a few customers. As such, data isn’t as rich and accurate as everyone would like it to be. What this breaks down to is that the trial and error experiences are more limited because there is a small pool of data from which to draw.
As a result, preliminary scores for these companies are low, with some rising to the top and providing more of what healthcare firms are looking for at that moment. But, something that should be realized is that population health and all of its data are moving targets. What might be need-to-know right now may not be necessary in a couple of years. Thus, it is important to recognize that PHMCs should show the ability to be flexible and adaptable to new needs and trends as they arise. This is a tall order when it comes to software and the fact that there isn’t such a thing as a simple update.
Furthermore, choosing out a company comes down to many outside factors instead of facts and ratings. Unfortunately, many of these other factors don’t help the healthcare organization to actually be more organized or to recognized areas of concern, but only appease the person or group of people in charge of purchasing the software. A few of these external influencers include:
- Reputation of the company – a name brand can go a long way to getting someone in the door, but may have nothing to do with how well the population health management software will work for an organization.
- Promises made – many vendors are more than willing to promise the world, but that may not be reality when all is said and done and the installation is complete.
- A rocket scientist couldn’t figure this out – the ease of use can be far from easy, and the ability to extract reliable data from the data may require more time and effort than is available within an organization.
- Return on investment – there are always significant costs involved in large purchases, and being aware of the budget for the organization is essential as well as making sure that the software provides data-driven information.
- Customer support – at some point, calling customer service may be necessary and it is vital that questions can be answered and help received as quickly and succinctly as possible.
Population health management companies will probably go through a Silicon Valley style weeding out, where the strongest and best providers continue on, while those that aren’t able to adapt, transform and provide for all the vast needs a healthcare organization needs, will fall by the wayside or be bought up. Keep an eye out for the many changes to the industry as a whole and for the bettering that will happen to the care of patients.