ACOs, Population Health and Delivering on the Promise of Improved Health Outcomes

Accountable care organizations (ACOs) – formal alliances of hospitals and physicians that assume responsibility for the cost and quality of care – have the potential to improve patient health while reducing the waste in the healthcare system. But, to make these gains, ACOs are changing the way healthcare is delivered – and significantly through the build of technological infrastructure.

These healthcare technology investments will not deliver on their promise if they ultimately don’t ensure that the HCP can deliver effective care to patients.  Decades of widely available research evidence indicates that there are strong positive relationships between a healthcare team member’s effective (or lack thereof) communication skills and a patient’s abilities to follow through with medical recommendations, manage their chronic condition(s), and assume preventive health behaviors.  Many studies demonstrate that a HCPs clinical empathy can have a profound effect on health outcomes as well as patient satisfaction and experience of care.    

And yet many HCPs report that their growing adoption of technologies – including EHRs and clinical decision supports systems – don’t help them effectively engage patients, especially at point of care, and in fact often hinder effective patient communication.  So, while huge investments continue to be made in Health IT, we must consider what it will take to ensure these investments pay off where everyone wants them to – improving health outcomes at the individual and population level. 

ABOUT POPULATION HEALTH MANAGEMENT 

The Population Health Alliance, a group of stakeholders that promotes wellness and disease management, says that effective population health improvement includes three components: 

• Giving primary care physicians the central role in care delivery

• Motivating patients to take personal responsibility for their own care

• Coordinating care through wellness, disease and chronic care management programs 

Foundational to these components is effective communication between provider and patient – true patient engagement through effective education about their condition and treatment pathways, in order to activate patients and increase their compliance with doctors’ instructions. 

DELIVERING ON THE PROMISE OF HEALTH IT

At Liberate Ideas, we believe strongly that our HCP-mediated digital patient education and activation platform, Liberate Health, helps achieve maximum return on patient education for providers and patients.  We are working hard to ensure Liberate Health is ubiquitously available to healthcare providers in their digital workflow – wherever and whenever a clinician is educating a patient – is where Liberate Health aims to be.  Population health management requires that patients be engaged in their own care. Unfortunately, most of them do not do this, so paramount among all patient engagement efforts they need effective, memorable HCP-mediated education about their health conditions, treatments and lifestyle factors to become activated.   

For ACOs, this means huge savings on preventable visits, admissions, prescription fulfillment and complications as well as increases in PQRS and HCAHPS scores.