As health organizations respond to rising healthcare quality standards and costs, providers and payers are recognizing the importance of population health outreach as an opportunity to help segmented populations attain and keep healthy lifestyles.

In order to improve care outcomes, effective population health outreach requires providers and payers to scale existing and new programs for a broader reach across their patient populations.

With that in mind, read on to learn about four population health outreach trends that are shaping the future of care management.

1. Renewed Focus on Vaccinations

Vaccinations are foundational to population health because immunization rates help prevent avoidable illness and disease. However, recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that seasonal flu vaccination rates have declined four percent from 2016 to 2017.

Over the next few years, many organizations will strive to raise vaccination rates for the flu and other diseases for which immunizations have declined. Vulnerable populations who elect not to receive vaccinations are considered “at-risk” and should be identified and targeted for population health outreach campaigns in order to educate them on the importance of the vaccinations while encouraging them to schedule an appointment with their healthcare provider.

With streamlined EHR integration, many automated solutions, such as Providertech, can easily identify and target at-risk populations who have not recently been vaccinated. This can help payers and providers more effectively and quickly scale population health outreach to specific patient groups based on pre-determined eligibility criteria, rather than having to rely on manual sifting of data to develop a targeted list for communication.

2. Rising Wearable Technology Use

The wearable technology market has doubled since 2015 and many healthcare payers and providers are already capitalizing on the influx of health data provided by sensing devices. Wearable devices and apps can track and monitor health-related data such as steps, heart rate, sleep patterns, and mental health using:

  • Fitness trackers
  • Smartwatches
  • Portable medical devices and sensors (e.g. glucometers)

In addition to helping patients monitor their own healthy lifestyles, wearables are beneficial to care providers because of the rich data they collect. In fact, wearable devices help payers and providers improve quality outcomes because they offer direct access to analytics that can help them more comprehensively understand their patient’s current state of health while facilitating preventative care.

As health organizations collect this data, they can use it as a supplement to pre-existing patient data as they design health promotion campaigns and raise awareness of risk factors through population health outreach. Health organizations can also leverage wearables to amplify chronic disease management, helping patients more proactively manage conditions like diabetes or heart disease.

As providers, payers, and patients continue to learn how to link this data, wearable technology has the potential to close gaps in care by relating lifestyle habits to actual clinical results.

3. Growing Prevention and Disease Management Benefits Offered by Payers

Health plans and employers recognize the financial advantages of keeping members and employees healthy, which is why more and more patients are offered access to primary care and population health outreach just steps from the breakroom.

Keeping employees happier and healthier can reduce the cost of chronic disease management and insurance premiums, which is why payers and employers are elevating the focus on wellness in the office.

Popular incentive programs are motivating participants to make healthier lifestyle choices, rewarding them for taking steps to improve their health. Ranging from exercise and weight loss to smoking cessation and chronic disease management, incentivized wellness programs can help reduce medical problems for employees, thereby lowering medical costs for the employer.

4. Expanding Community Partnerships

Finally, the social determinants of health, or the conditions in which individuals live, work and play, are relevant factors healthcare organizations must consider when designing population health outreach.

For effective population health outreach, healthcare organizations must take into consideration the socio-economic issues impacting their patient’s ability to make healthy choices. Partnering with community organizations is one-way providers and payers can work towards addressing some of the social barriers patients may experience, including food and housing, education, and employment.

For example, does their geographic location or socioeconomic status impact their ability to keep appointments? Or are transportation challenges preventing them from accessing the care they need?

For those impacted by transportation, many health systems are establishing relationships with popular rideshare transportation services such as Uber and Lyft. These community partnerships are helping healthcare providers and organizations establish access to care for their patients, resulting in:

  • Improved wellness
  • Increased health quality outcomes
  • Reduced costs

Often patients are unaware of resources they may be eligible for and as a result, they neglect to enroll in programs that could help them navigate to their appointments.

Non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT), for example, is a core Medicaid benefit offering transportation services to patients who face barriers in getting to their medical appointments. NEMT healthcare outreach can also be offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and private insurers. State rules vary, but it’s important to review your community health needs assessments to determine what kind of solutions would best serve your patient populations, whether travel vouchers or ridesharing services.

The most effective population health outreach programs will leverage technology, like wearables and analytics, to better understand their patients and target segmented at-risk groups, while executing strategies with the support of community-based programs and health plan incentives.

As these population health outreach trends unfold, patient engagement will be key to lasting impacts of increased quality of care and lower costs. To ensure success for future population health outreach, providers and payers will need to work collectively to manage the health of the community and its populations.

To learn more about population health outreach, read our blog post on 6 ways automated population health outreach can improve quality outcomes.