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To Crack the Code of Population Health, There is No Endpoint. Only a Journey.

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I am an avid follower of the NEJM Catalyst site (if you don’t follow it, you are really missing out). Recently, I was elated to see a blog post by Chris DeRienzo, MD, MPP on Leading Quality in Changing Times from his vantage point of System Chief Quality Officer at Mission Health.

He articulates four organizing principles for population health management that can guide organizations “…through what is truly the greatest transformation since the days of Hippocrates.”

  • Principle 1: A focus on the patient experience is becoming table stakes
  • Principle 2: No C-level is an island
  • Principle 3: Continuous improvement is a cultural imperative
  • Principle 4: Pay for value will change how we obsess about metrics

In his post, he notes quite astutely that the “brave new world of population health” is for some of us “neither new or brave.” For decades, patient and quality leaders have been trying to steer unwieldy health system ships that move at glacial speed. In my recollection, patient safety and quality crusaders were at best tolerated by the financial-facing departments in years past and at worst, downplayed or ignored. Many of us eeked by on scarce grant funding as few internal departments were eager to dedicate resources for quality as the financial ROI wasn’t clear. We had to grapple with Byzantine IRB rules that didn’t suit our projects in order to even talk about our work publicly. As an analytics professional, I am continually struck by the enormous opportunity to improve patient well-being if we could only make a serious stab at really learning from the data we have.

But now, the continuous improvement mindset is absolutely essential to master and evangelize if you want to lead an organization towards stellar care as well as a healthy bottom line. Incentives are shifting. And this is such a cultural shift for many organizations that are accustomed to the ‘one and done’ IT injections of the 90’s/early 2000’s to solve problems.

Today, EVERYTHING requires a continuum. You are never done optimizing the EHR. You constantly need to rethink your data strategy. The well-being of staff follows a multifaceted process and not an HR measure. An attitude of life-long learning must pervade any data or analytic professional lest they aspire to become obsolete, which is something we work on here at ThotWave quite a bit.

I’m excited to follow Mission Health’s quality journey in the future.

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