The United States outspends other nations when it comes to healthcare—to the tune of $3.3 trillion or nearly 18 percent of GDP in 2016. The growing price tag for Americans’ healthcare isn’t down to demographics alone. Certainly, the aging baby boomer population is increasing utilization and consequently spending. But healthcare organizations recognize that improving health outcomes play an important role in bringing down costs.
In fact, costs and health outcomes were featured prominently at last year’s Healthcare of Tomorrow conference. U.S. News reports that the opening keynote session highlighted that “Investing in wellness doesn't just help patients, it also makes good business sense.” Let’s take a closer look at insights from health outcomes research in the past year.
1. Collaborate on Population Health Management
According to the Top Health Industry Issues of 2018 report, “PwC estimates that health disparities account for $102 billion in direct medical costs annually.” That’s quite an incentive for tackling health outcomes across an entire population. PwC notes, “Insurers that address them can reduce costs, and providers can improve their brand and reduce their risk in value-based payment schemes.”
Addressing health outcomes requires a collaborative approach—hospitals and health systems working with private and public insurers, state and local government, community organizations, local businesses and families. There is a clear link between poor health outcomes and social factors.
Take food insecurity, for example. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that “… people in food-insecure households—those lacking consistent access to adequate food at some point during the year due to limited resources—spend roughly 45 percent more on medical care in a year ($6,100) than people in food-secure households ($4,200). Moreover, several decades of research have consistently demonstrated a strong correlation between food insecurity and chronic health conditions.
The Center’s analysis confirms that connecting low-income communities to nutritional programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) improves food security and leads to better health outcomes. Likewise, PwC points to the results of screenings and interventions for food insecurity by Toledo, Ohio-based ProMedica. The organization’s efforts led to a:
- 3% drop in emergency visits
- 53% drop in hospital readmissions
- 4% increase in primary care visits
Imagine the impact on health outcomes across the country if healthcare providers partnered consistently with communities to address issues like food insecurity, affordable housing, transportation challenges, education and income disparities.
2. Make More Use of Data and Analytics to Drive Better Health Outcomes
Before a health organization can address the role that social factors play in a patient’s health outcomes, it has to identify which factors are in play. And PwC’s research points out a serious challenge—78 percent of healthcare providers say they lack those insights. “While clinicians routinely gather standard demographic information in their electronic health records (EHRs), social and lifestyle information—beyond tobacco and alcohol use—is spottier.” In fact, a mere 4 percent of clinicians integrate community demographic data into their analysis tools.
Experts agree, however, that healthcare organizations need to leverage big data more than ever—from internal EHR, clinical and financial tools, as well as relevant external sources like local demographic datasets. Who can facilitate data awareness? Those on the front line of technology implementations across healthcare organizations: Health Information Management (HIM) professionals.
Citing a November 2018 Journal of AHIMA article, Health IT Analytics suggests that more collaboration among HIM professionals and care delivery teams can yield positive results.
- Put your knowledge to good use — Host “Lunch & Learn” sessions to help members across the healthcare team maximize the value they get from the EHR.
- Advertise successes — Create an internal webpage or e-newsletter focused on new and useful EHR features, as well as insights from analysis of internal EHR data.
Purposeful engagement by HIM professionals creates cross-department synergy for more seamless patient experiences and ensures that the healthcare organization’s technology investment delivers a good return on investment. The study’s authors conclude, “Instilling awareness of and appreciation for the various HIM roles in practice and during academic preparation will lead to better collaboration among healthcare teams and better outcomes for patients.”
3. Build Better Patient Engagement with Psychographic Segmentation
Demographic and diagnostic data give healthcare providers insights into patient populations, but when it comes to connecting with individual patients to motivate behavior change, those sources aren’t enough. Psychographic segmentation reveals the deeper beliefs and expectations that patients bring to their healthcare experiences.
For instance, a Cincinnati-based health system uses a 12-question consumer classifier developed by c2b to segment patients with diabetes into one of five psychographic segments—Self Achievers, Balance Seekers, Priority Jugglers, Willful Endurers or Direction Takers. Health coaches then adapt how they communicate with individual patients based on their unique motivations and communication preferences. They exceeded their goal by 90 percent, prompting the healthcare organization to expand the program to improve health outcomes for other types of chronic conditions.
If your organization needs to make some changes in approach for improving health outcomes, these insights give you a better idea of what to focus on, which will help your organization save money and adapt for the future. Get the latest national market research on psychographic segmentation and healthcare consumers by downloading our whitepaper.