In an effort to broaden availability of healthcare insurance coverage and to control spiraling premiums and underlying costs, Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) in 2010.  While the law’s ability to address these issues has been called into question, the legislation was ultimately an indicator of broad dissatisfaction with an expensive and inefficient healthcare system.  The reality is that healthcare costs have continued to outpace other sectors of the economy, and as the government’s share of this cost burden increases, how we pay for and deliver healthcare in this country will have to change to move toward better health outcomes at lower cost.

One approach to doing this that has garnered increasing interest is population health management.  As the industry struggles with how to reduce costs without negatively impacting healthcare quality, focus in this area will only grow.  Despite the buzz, however, the concept of “population health management” means different things to different people, and there is little consensus on how to solve the problem of managing the health of a given population.  Managing a population’s health requires systematic and transparent delivery of services to improve the health status of a given set of people, ultimately delivering better outcomes at lower cost for that population.  This really is a paradigm shift, requiring a new approach to quality improvement and how it’s measured, greater focus on the continuum of care, and a payment system that is aligned with these goals.

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