How ilumed’s Population-Health Approach Can Heal Healthcare

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By: Stephanie Higginbotham, Senior Vice President of Clinical Services

Most healthcare providers get into the profession because they have a calling to help. That’s a big part of my story as a registered nurse, but it’s not the full story. When I decided to go back to school, I was married with a family and working full-time. I had to weigh the difficult decision to spend less time with my family so I could help others. My whole family made that sacrifice with me. It wasn’t until I was helping to provide medical care and administer vaccines in a developing country my senior year of nursing school that I knew that sacrifice was worth it because I was helping to improve the lives of other families with my work.

Sadly, too many providers today don’t see their efforts as making a positive impact. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy sounded the alarm on healthcare worker burnout and resignation. As of late 2021, one-third of clinical employees had quit their jobs. Physicians have seen continuous turnover rates.

Yet there’s hope for our nation’s healthcare workers and our patients: transitioning to a population-health approach. Let me explain.

What is population health, and why should physicians care about it?

In healthcare, we’re trained to think one-to-one between the provider and the patient. However, health is not an individual affair. Health happens at the community level. It’s looking at the birds-eye view of the forest vs. a specific tree. When you zoom out to the population-health level, you can start to see trends and patterns with diseases and subsets of a population. For example, in an area without healthy food options, you might see a rise in obesity, which could correlate to higher levels of diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

Physicians often see these trends anecdotally, especially in rural care settings. The physician might notice multiple patients coming in with the same symptoms and barriers to health. It can feel demoralizing from a physician’s perspective to keep treating the same conditions without feeling any progress. It’s like running on a hamster wheel.

Workload, lack of control and insufficient rewards are three of the top drivers for physician burnout. Physicians want to connect to patients and truly help them, but, often, the traditional fee-for-service system feels rigged to prevent that from happening. A population-health approach can combat the drivers of burnout by creating a system that helps physicians work smarter rather than harder, helping them pinpoint the patients who are most at risk and making the biggest differences in the lives of their patients.

How does ilumed approach population health with physicians?

We start with value-based care

At ilumed, we see transitioning from a fee-for-service care model into a value-based care model as the first step toward population health. This care model improves quality of care and patient experiences while it reduces costs, all of which benefit population health. If you think about population health as a body of water, this is the stone that creates those first ripples.

We wrap our arms around physicians, their teams and their patients

We help physicians and their teams transform their practices for the better with technology and increased patient support. We can make the transition from fee-for-service to value-based care easier with our hands-on, proactive support for the physician’s staff and their patient panel alike.

We leverage the power of technology

We use artificial intelligence based on claims and clinical data through our proprietary BrainStream platform to categorize patients by their health-risk level, whether low, medium or high. We also use an Area of Deprivation Index, socioeconomic and demographic information to develop algorithms to identify needs around food insecurities, medication adherence, transportation barriers, safety needs and so on. We also get the patient’s perspective on their health and needs as well through a health-equity intake patient assessment. Putting all these patient-data analytics together helps us take an equity-based approach to care, so we can provide those who are at the highest risk with the most amount of targeted support both inside and outside the exam room.

We take a personalized approach to patient outreach

Once we’ve identified these patients, our care management team helps with personalized outreach. We help them schedule appointments, get transportation to and from their appointments, get food assistance and more. We help uncover the root causes of problems for both physicians and patients.

Transportation is a big issue. Our patient outreach helped us discover that patients were missing appointments because they couldn’t find a reliable ride. A lack of transportation can result in missed or delayed appointments, poorer health outcomes and increased costs. But thanks to our transportation services, we’re able to remove that barrier, ensuring patients get the timely care they need and deserve.

We build trust through advocacy

For many patients, especially those in older generations, discussing social determinants of health like food insecurity, housing insecurity or transportation problems can feel embarrassing or taboo. Our team helps to build comfort and trust with patients over time. We reach out to patients so consistently that they feel heard and cared about. We’re able to turn that trust and compassion into action with our support and services to meet immediate and long-term patient needs. Once patients start getting their needs met and see their health improve, we’ve seen them help the rest of their community stay accountable as well.

We lead with compassion

At ilumed, we’re servant leaders for both physicians and patients. We’re a trusted advocate because we keep those lines of communication open. We empower physicians and patients to get and stay engaged and, because of that, we’ve seen better outcomes across the board.

Ready to transition your practice to a population-health approach?

Let’s start the conversation. Get in touch with us today.

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