This year at The 2017 OPEN MINDS Technology & Informatics Institute, there was lots of talk about the necessary tech investments that provider organizations need to make on their path to population health management—and understandably that included a lot of talk about the proper collection and use of data.
A related but slightly different perspective was presented by keynote speaker James Schuster, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Medicaid and Behavioral Services and Vice President, Behavioral Integration, UPMC Insurance Division, Community Care Behavioral Health Organization, in his session, Data Sharing To Enable Population Health Management. Data is still of prime importance, but the tech investment that can lead to the most effective interventions for consumers are those that can lead to consumer self-management—or “patient activation”, which refers to the consumer’s knowledge, skills, ability, and willingness to manage their own health care.
Dr. Schuster explained that UPMC worked with several counties and the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services in a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) funded comparative effectiveness study of two behavioral health home model approaches to improve the health status of consumers with SMI (with about 650 consumers in each group). The goal was to support the wellness, engagement, and self-management of consumers with SMI. Dr. Schuster noted:
We’ve been doing a lot of work on how to address population health, especially for serious mental illness. One key theme is that we needed a population approach that had a strong self-management component. Most people spend most of their lives outside a doctor’s office, so self-management is important. And we wanted that approach to enhance the overall health status and the care individuals were receiving. We wanted to improve the system-not with more care, but improved medical care. And last, we wanted to work on prevention and wellness. We know about the short lifespan of people with mental illness. We wanted an intervention to help that as well.
The program is now expanding to approximately 50 adult provider agencies in Pennsylvania and demonstration programs are underway in substance use treatment programs and children’s service providers.
His key to both supporting consumer self-management and being more tech and data-driven in a market tilting toward population health? Pay attention to the staffing. Dr. explained that at the end of two years, consumers in both programs thought both programs were helpful, and both programs showed improvement over time—the key difference being that programs with nurses led to changes more rapidly.
My advice for provider organizations—especially smaller, specialty organizations—is that adopting tech to improve consumer engagement is a very achievable strategy, but the goal can’t just be to offer the tech to consumers and leave it at that. As Dr. Schuster noted, the best results come when staffing can still offer support. To make investments in consumer health education technology pay off, consumer engagement is the key—and at its heart, that will remain a job for a living professional.
For more on Dr. Schuster’s work, check out The Cutting Edge Of Data Sharing For Population Health. For more on the overlap between consumer engagement and tech, check out Increased Consumer Tech Engagement = Success, For Tech-Enabled Consumer Health Education, Engagement = Success, and How Technology Is Changing Case Management.
This kind of innovation new to your strategy sessions? Join me on June 6 at The 2018 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute for my plenary, “Incorporating Innovation Into Everyday Operations: A New Strategy For Sustainability.”