Last week, I had the privilege of sharing a population health success story at the Healthcare Communicators of Oregon fall conference (#hcofall2015), along with our friend and client Becky Swanson. In addition to meeting some of the friendliest people in the country, it was an exceptional one-day conference—something you should put on your calendar for next year if you’re in the Pacific Northwest!

Three things really stood out in my mind, and are a combination of content from the presentation, as well as conversation topics brought from the audience.

  1. Population health is a marathon not a sprint. You can’t expect to achieve measurable change in the short term—perhaps even in the first year. But by the second and third years of a sustainable, consistent effort, you can expect to change behavior and outcomes in your community in identifiable, meaningful ways.
  1. Be thoughtful about your goals. Remember, you’re not selling P90X, TaeBo, or even Jazzercise. People may or may not look better naked (as these products seem to promise) for your effort. But they should expect to be healthier, lead more productive lives, live longer and hopefully, love longer. Those are hard to quantify in slick ad executions, but they aren’t hard to determine from looking at your data and talking to your patients.
  1. ROI is real. You will engage more new patients. Attendance at events will go up. People will track improved health outcomes. Readmission rates can go down. It is a leading indicator of primary care volume. There are real numbers behind the work, and you can tie them to the bottom line.

Population health efforts are hard. Many organizations struggle to see the end of the road. They know it’s the right thing to do. And as Accountable Care Organizations, they know population health is part of their future. But it’s challenging to make it meaningful today. That’s why it takes a super hero.

To get a copy of the presentation, or for some thoughts on successful implementation, please email Mike Seyfer at mseyfer@haileysault.com.