For any healthcare facility to survive, they need to have some competence and familiarity with population healthcare management. For the uninitiated, this is an approach to healthcare where facilities or institutions work to improve patient outcomes for specific populations. This involves collating and analyzing patient data to identify disparities in healthcare access, and enacting preventative or early intervention care via patient engagement and coordinated care efforts. This is all made possible with the support of certain financial and/or care models.
This undertaking is not without its own unique challenges and quandaries, but effective population healthcare management is vital to the success of any respectable facility. In this article, we will go over the key challenges presented by population healthcare management, as well as the opportunities and solutions to them.
Challenges and Solutions
Certain patient populations do not have the resources to cover for their own treatment. Some individuals lack stable employment, are underpaid in their current roles with little financial mobility, or are outright impoverished or uninsured. Even among employed individuals, factors like race and gender still lead to significant wage gaps between otherwise similar workers in the same sector. Not only does this lead to unwanted stress and anxiety, but it can also limit a population’s access to healthcare services. Healthcare costs are only rising as time passes, which will continue to hamper a population’s accessibility to crucial healthcare services.
Solution: Improving healthcare access
Ensuring that underserved populations gain the equitable access healthcare to deserve is one of the core tenets of population healthcare management. This can be done through a number of different ways. Programs that tackle root healthcare problems like poverty and poor food quality directly are vital for resolving them, long term. By collaborating with community outreach programs, healthcare facilities can also do their part in expanding healthcare access among underserved populations.
The wage gap is not the only factor that limits healthcare access among marginalized groups. Across the board, minority and ethnic groups have a lower quality of healthcare. Even if they are not trying to, healthcare workers allow misconceptions about the physical traits of ethnic minorities to inform their diagnoses and treatments. One of the most infamous examples of this is the racist notion that black people are more tolerant to pain than white people. This can lead to costly mistakes in pain assessment or anesthesia dosages, which directly increases the chance for misdiagnoses and (worst case scenario) death.
Solution: Cultural competency programs
Cultural competency training is something that healthcare facilities in general need to invest in. It prepares healthcare providers to look past their biases, and communicate with a diverse list of patients from various ethnicities and identities. This cannot remove implicit racial bias completely, but steps have to be made to combat these harmful notions. Other big picture solutions include expanding Medicaid care, which the Commonwealth Fund suggests would significantly reduce racial bias in healthcare coverage.
The Importance of Patient Engagement
If population health management programs want to succeed, they need cooperation and total engagement from their patients. For patient populations who commonly struggle with chronic diseases, patients have to grasp their condition, know how to manage it and act on that knowledge, and consult with multiple healthcare providers whenever it is necessary. A healthcare provider can do their best to make a patient aware of these things, but ultimately the onus is on them to act upon it.
Solution: Encouraging Patient Engagement
Nurses need to do their best to create plans that account for a patient’s specific circumstances. In a majority of cases, patients want to follow their doctors’ orders but cannot follow through for a number of reasons. For example; their transportation could be limited, which limits their ability to consult with certain professionals. Be sure to talk through a patient, with regards to their current situation, and make care plans and recommendations that account for them.
The tip of the iceberg
These are just a handful of the problems that Population Healthcare Management seeks to address. Obviously, the solutions listed above are easier said than done. To properly tackle healthcare inequality or racial bias requires a coordinated effort between multiple facilities, over a lengthy period of time. It is a challenging undertaking, but the benefits outweigh everything else. If carried out correctly, Population Healthcare Management improves patient outcomes across the board and increases accessibility to healthcare services. In that situation, everyone wins.