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How personalized healthcare enables population health

November 04, 2021 | 4 min read

Many organizations have similar goals for their population health efforts. However, their methods often differ. Distinctions in implementation, technology and service can have a major impact on engagement and outcomes, which can lead to negative experiences and increased costs.

What is population health?

Many refer to population health as the health outcomes of, and distribution of health to, a specific group of individuals. These groups can be ethnicities, employees, communities and more. Accolade believes outcomes are key for every group.

“We think of population health in terms of enabling high quality clinical outcomes,” Greg Burrell, VP, clinical strategy and population health, said. “For instance, are we helping the majority of people keep their diabetes in control? Are we helping people get treatment for their depression? Are we helping people enjoy a better quality of life at the population level?”

A number of factors influence these health outcomes. In fact, population health outcomes are affected by policies, clinical care, behaviors and social and environmental factors, among others. The best population health management approaches consider, understand and analyze the full array of inputs to enable desirable outcomes.

Why is population health important?

The individual benefits to personal health are generally clear to everyone, but how does society at large benefit from a healthier population? The answer is multifaceted. When a large part of the population is sick, it puts a drain on available human resources and on the overall economy. However, when more people are healthy, the public benefits from the increased chances that individuals who are healthy, along with their connected communities, will achieve more. In addition, a society that is healthier promotes better personal health engagement because people feel encouraged and empowered to manage and improve their own health.

What role does data play?

Population health is about the health of groups. Identifying, understanding and analyzing these groups requires data, from the groups’ composition and care needs to the delivery and measurement of care provided from the healthcare system. Simply having data, though, does not equate to having healthcare success.

Some population health approaches tend to overlook certain groups or deliver individual healthcare suggestions that don’t fit. This can leave people disengaged with their health, which can have negative impacts on overall health numbers.

How does getting specific make a difference?

Population health as a blanket across an entire population can work adequately for certain needs. For the majority of care, however, more personalization is needed. We can do this by including social determinants in our clinical and claims data. Some people may have higher risks, while others may have higher needs. The latter is less clinical and more social, since, for example, it may involve the person’s ability to get to an appointment or purchase their prescription. Considering these social determinants of health enables better whole-person care and improved outcomes, but also requires greater data granularity.

What is the personalized healthcare connection?

Including a wide range of inputs allows Accolade to go beyond risk categories and provide support that is more specific. Many companies focus on diagnosing and treating people during episodic care, which means no one is proactively working to prevent issues before they arise. “This approach is commoditized and doesn’t move the needle for someone who has diabetes or depression and is struggling to get their meds,” Dr. Burrell said.

Accolade’s proactive approach to Personalized Healthcare treats people like individuals. We merge a human-to-human approach with robust data to tailor healthcare for each person. This detailed view allows us to be very specific, going beyond identifying a person’s risk category simply because they are part of a certain group. We add social determinants and personal data to population health information to build a 360º view of a person’s healthcare journey. This includes using electronic medical records, claims and more to create a Personalized Healthcare journey.

This highly personal approach empowers each person, as well as their families and providers, to make better healthcare decisions. The result is that people have better experiences, improved health outcomes and lower costs. In short, giving individuals agency over their health and access to care can benefit the entire community.

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