RuralHealthValue.org

Understanding and Facilitating Rural Health Transformation

Guide to Selecting Population Health Management Technologies for Rural Care Delivery

What is population health management?
Optimizing the health of patient populations—population health management—is a foundational component of value-based health care, which aims to improve clinical quality, satisfy patients and families, advance community health, and lower per capita costs. Population health can be managed at different levels: within an individual clinic practice (practice-based population health), at a health system level, or more globally at a community level. This guide focuses on the patient populations of health care delivery organizations rather than broader community-wide initiatives.

How can our organization use IT tools to manage the health of our patient population?
Population health management technology can support rural clinics and care systems in managing the preventive and chronic care of their patient populations.

The technologies range from add on software modules to full software suites that integrate with an electronic health record (EHR) system to advance care coordination. The capabilities of these technologies should be more advanced than existing computerized disease registries to manage chronic illness.

These technologies aggregate patient and clinician data to:

  • Identify and stratify patients who have particular clinical risk factors and those who are likely to incur high costs or are at risk of incurring high cost;
  • Establish and monitor treatment plans that result in improved health and lower costs of care, aided by care coordination workflow;
  • Identify clinician practice patterns to recognize achievement and evaluate improvement opportunities; and
  • Support outreach and patient engagement.

Why should our organization use population health management technologies?
Population health management technologies support success in payment models that reimburse based on value. For example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service (CMS) Quality Payment Program is a shift to accelerate value-based health care delivery for eligible clinicians. The program’s incentive structure aligns with population health management principles: make care more accessible to patients, improve follow-up care and transitions between doctors or facilities, eliminate unnecessary or duplicative tests, and keep patients healthier overall.

Technologies to support population health management are relatively new and the field of options is broad. Many software vendors provide consulting services to help health care organizations facilitate population health management strategies.

How to Use This Guide
This guide walks you through a six-step process to plan for and implement technology to manage the health of your existing patient populations.

  1. Form a Team
  2. Set Goals
  3. Plan for Financing
  4. Develop Requirements
  5. Compare Products
  6. Select Vendor and Negotiate Contract

Note: Before taking action with this guide, your organization should have already assessed whether to affiliate with a larger organization or network to achieve the goals of an accountable care organization (ACO) or other value-based contracting entity. These organizations may provide access to population health management technologies as part of the affiliation or networking process.


Step 1: Form a Team


Actions

  1. Create a project leadership team.
  2. Write a project charter outlining what your population health management project will accomplish.

Selecting and implementing a population health management tool requires input from your health care organization’s leaders. Involving leaders in the decision-making process helps ensure the tools you implement meet user needs, make financial sense, and support the mission of your organization. Develop a charter endorsed by the project team.

Your project team should include:

  • Project manager (likely fills another role as well)
  • High-level clinical leader – physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant
  • Chief operations officer
  • Chief financial officer
  • Health information technology (IT) manager or lead
  • Care manager/care coordinator
  • Others, including: consultants, a board member, nurse leader, other clinical and support staff.

Tools & Resources

  • Project Charter Template - Provides a format to clarify the project’s milestones, estimated budget, timeline, and project participants, including who will provide approvals. Risks associated with the project also are described.

Return to Steps


Step 2: Set Goals


Actions

  1. Review the tools and resources below for setting goals.
  2. Use Population Health Software Capabilities to help set specific goals.
  3. Complete this step simultaneously with Step 3: Plan for Financing.*

Before you spend time and money selecting and implementing a population health management tool, decide why a population health initiative is important to your patients and your healthcare organization. Goal setting will clarify what functionality new software should provide.

*Goals will affect revenue; revenue will affect how much you can spend on a tool, which will affect how robust a tool you can afford, which will affect your ability to accomplish your goals.

Tools & Resources

Return to Steps


Step 3: Plan for Financing


Actions

  1. Review the tools and resources for financing your population health tools.
  2. Complete the spreadsheet Business Case for Population Health to get an idea of whether the expenses will be offset by benefits.
  3. Complete this step simultaneously with Step 2: Set Goals.

Investment in population health technology primarily has a business case if your organization plans to be involved in alternative or risk-based payment programs (i.e., ACO). The more risk your organization takes on, the stronger the business case will be. The tools in this step help you figure out how much you can or should spend on a population health tool. Once you start working with vendors, they can review your goals and data to assess potential financial impact from using their population management offerings. Review vendor estimates of savings against your own assumptions.

Vendor pricing models vary widely. Some offer a flat per-member-per-month (PMPM) or lives-covered-per-month rate, with discounts for higher volumes. Ranges of $0.50-$8 PMPM have been cited. Subscription models may provide access to individual modules or a full suite of tools. Vendors may have professional service fees, in addition to technical fees. Contracts for one vendor who works with large health systems averaged $2-$4 million a year.

Your choice of population health management tool should support your goals and revenue.

Tools & Resources

Return to Steps


Step 4: Develop Requirements


Actions

  1. Tailor the Mini Request for Information (RFI) to Acquire a Population Health Software (below) to align with your goals and priorities.
  2. Review vendor websites, talk with colleagues, and reach out to vendors. Teams are encouraged to complete a minimum of three mini RFIs with different vendors.

Before you reach out to vendors for estimates, develop detailed requirements for the population health tool you need. Knowing your priorities is critical, as vendors have developed the various technologies for different key focus areas within population health management.

By the end of this step, you should have identified all the requirements and documented them in a mini RFI.

Tools & Resources

Return to Steps


Step 5: Compare Products


Actions

  1. Review the responses provided by vendors in Step 4: Develop Requirements.
  2. Compare vendor responses against each other and against the product information below.

When vendors respond to your RFI, you will need to compare “apples to apples.” This can be surprisingly difficult, as each salesperson will want to give you information in a way that presents their product in the best light. Compare the products by breaking out the functionality you need and the pricing.

Tools & Resources

Return to Steps


Step 6: Select Vendor and Negotiate Contract


Actions

  1. Select the vendor that best aligns with your priorities and budget.
  2. Review the Contract Checklist tool and use it to guide your negotiations with the vendor.

Select a vendor and negotiate a contract that is favorable to your organization. Once you have selected the best option, use the Contract Checklist tool to negotiate the best deal.

Tools & Resources

  • Contract Checklist - The tips in this tool can assist with negotiating a favorable contract with your vendor of choice.

Return to Steps