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Lessons learned from HIMSS16

Healthcare leaders from around the globe shared how their organizations are changing to improve population health management—and how their perspectives are changing, too.

Dalia Haroune and Rick Hirko | March 15, 2016

The 2016 HIMSS conference was abuzz with dozens of education sessions, hundreds of vendor exhibits, 40,000 attendees, and countless networking opportunities. We heard great insights from some of the industry’s best and brightest throughout the week, with two recurring themes bubbling up again and again: population health management and the CIO and CMIOs’ perspectives.

Population health: here, there, and everywhere

We learned about innovative, game-changing population health initiatives from around the country at HIMSS16. With each great win shared, it became evident that this is a trend that’s here to stay.

Keynote speaker, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, kicked off the conference speaking to the critical role of health IT and information exchange in achieving our population health management goals. She stressed the importance of promoting care coordination and integration to improve care delivery. She spoke to the role of timely, accurate data as a foundation to proactively drive the right care, in the right place, at the right time. Burwell’s opening set the tone for the conference, as the topic of population health management was echoed in presentations and conversations throughout the week.

Transformation in action

For population health management to be impactful, your efforts must truly be transformational—small changes aren’t enough. It requires a complete shift in your organization’s culture, from how you align with and incentivize providers; to how you invest in and effectively use IT and analytics; to how, when, and where you deliver care.

We heard transformational examples from organizations like Christiana Care Health System. Christiana Care’s data-driven population health program, strong technical infrastructure, and comprehensive care coordination program enabled effective care management ratios, improvements in workflow, and overall improvements in patient wellbeing.

Baylor Scott & White Health has value-based contracts that vary across the risk spectrum. Its initiatives—supported by a comprehensive care team, a physician-led board of managers, and a robust set of analytic and reporting tools—resulted in a 10% reduction in readmission rates over 2 years, a reduction in overall admissions per thousand, and a $24 million reduction in employee plan medical costs.

Population health management is a team effort

Population health management requires a trusted partnership with a payer or self-insured employer that has goals aligned with yours, and will enter into value-based contracts with financial incentives to improve quality of care and reduce costs.

Another key tenant to a successful population health program: it should be physician-led, formally, in the governance structure. Protocols will need to be revised; care coordination and handoffs will need to be defined across settings (and across primary care physicians and specialists, as well); and transparency, accountability, and a culture of continuous improvement will need to be the norm.

Remember, while these efforts will drive quality, they will likely reduce unnecessary/avoidable volumes for many physicians (i.e., compensation).

Health IT and effective data analytics

Capitation didn’t work so well in the 90s. We simply didn’t have enough data and analytics insights at the time to proactively and effectively manage health populations.

Today, many would argue we have more data than we know what to do with. At HIMSS16, we learned about providers and companies that have risk-stratified the patient population, identifying and quantifying the highest utilizers, as well as those at risk for becoming the highest utilizers in the future. That data then becomes the basis for an effective care management program driving the right care, in the right setting, at the right time.

The CIO and CMIOs’ perspectives

Healthcare providers are facing a myriad of challenges ranging from payment reform to population health to regulatory change. We wanted to understand how the nation’s leading CIOs and CMIOs were positioning their organizations to stay ahead of the curve in the coming years.

One of our biggest takeaways from HIMSS16 was that healthcare analytics is still in its infancy. While most providers have implemented electronic medical records (EMR) over the last decade, many are still focused on deriving insights from the massive data sets they’ve accumulated.

During an insightful session focused on the relationship between the CIO and CMIO, one of the presenting executives noted that the availability of qualified analytics professionals who truly understood clinical workflow was a bigger limiting factor than technology platforms in terms of analytics adoption. In other words, he could implement the most bleeding-edge analytics platform available, but his organization wasn’t going to derive value from it without analysts who could translate unique clinical operations into meaningful information that drives decision-making from the patient’s bedside to the boardroom.

Physician engagement

“Physician engagement” was a common term we heard while roaming the halls of the Sands Expo Center. In one session on how to optimize healthcare IT to enable quality care improvements, the CMIO spoke in detail about how his organization used targeted EMR alerts and other IT tools to tackle healthcare’s triple aim of improving patient outcomes and quality while reducing costs.

We were struck by this CMIO’s perspective on physician engagement. He noted that there wasn’t a silver bullet to ensure physicians understood the nature of the various quality initiatives he and his informatics team were implementing. Instead, they took a multi-faceted approach that employed strong governance, a targeted communication model, and individual quality reporting to drive change and realize their expected outcomes.

A discussion with a CIO crystallized our perspective on the true focus of healthcare IT executives in 2016. With the ever-changing nature of business and clinical operations at his (and virtually all) healthcare organizations, he saw his role as CIO as one of enabling people, process, and technology capabilities.

His experience reflects a growing trend where the healthcare CIO is more than a custodian of the data center—the most successful CIOs need to keep their finger on the pulse of the organization and anticipate their clinical counterparts’ needs wherever possible.

Missed us at HIMSS16? It’s not too late to connect!

Thanks to those who attended our session Competing IT Priorities? Master Your Enterprise IT Demand, or swung by our table at the Greater Chicago Chapter HIMSS event on Wednesday night. If you missed us in Vegas, it’s not too late to connect! Drop us a line and we'll get in touch.

Dalia Haroune is no longer with Slalom.

Slalom Chicago's Dalia Haroune

Dalia Haroune is a solution principal in Slalom’s Chicago office, where she is a leader in healthcare. She partners with healthcare organizations to identify and implement opportunities to align providers from a strategic, operational, and financial perspective. With over 15 years of healthcare experience, she has helped top providers become clinically integrated, maximize performance through care delivery innovations, enhance market share, operate efficiently, and improve profitability.

Slalom Seattle's Rick Hirko

Rick Hirko is a principal consultant in Slalom Seattle’s healthcare practice. He has over a decade of experience in partnering with his clients to deliver Healthcare IT and EMR solutions across the spectrum of care delivery. In his free time, he enjoys cooking, watching sports, exploring the Pacific Northwest, and struggling at golf.


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