Information transparency is vital to population health management, yet difficult to achieve

You’d think providing up-to-date, relevant information to physicians in your accountable care organization (ACO) would be easy. Share files, email data, and voila! Transparency!

But it’s not that simple. Data transparency is critical for population health management (PHM) success; without it, physicians won’t trust data that shows sub-optimal care patterns or outlier behavior. Transparency requires several processes to ensure the information is accurate and timely—or physicians won’t trust the data and use it to change behaviors based on it.

Transparency takes both technical acumen and leadership. Like any other organization, an ACO must utilize clinical knowledge expertise, medical informatics acumen, and technological savvy to access and analyze data. From there, the information must be shared in an easy, consistent, and accessible way. And all of this takes one thing: persistence.

“We do not tell physicians what to do; we show them what they are doing,” said Simeon Schwartz, MD, the president and CEO of WestMed Group of Purchase, N.Y. “You might have the best analytics around, but analytics are only good if you share the information transparently. You have to create a physician culture that allows for a high-level of transparency.”Miles Snowden, MD, MPH, CEBS Chief Medical Officer, OptumHealth

Physicians often need to be fed data slowly. WellMed Medical Management knows this well. Since its founding, WellMed leadership has met with affiliated physicians to talk about the business as a whole. Using a step-wise approach to data transparency, WellMed first discussed hospitalized patients and what would happen after discharge. Then, physicians were asked what patients they believed were high risk and why. When doctors were comfortable talking about risk, WellMed introduced its risk stratification model.

If WellMed had immediately put the risk stratification model before physicians without first providing accurate, transparent data about patient populations, it might never had garnered provider support. Providing insights into patient populations secured provider buy-in and built trust.

Data transparency is about more than good health practices and building trust between physicians and leadership. According to Optum’s chief medical officer of collaborative care Doug Allen, information sharing assigns accountability to everyone involved, especially the providers. “You give physicians a performance profile for those patients for whom they are accountable. But you need to pay them for the additional time it takes to address all the extra needs of their patients,” he said.

Our next post in this series will address this aspect of population health management. ACOs need to fully grasp the broad spectrum of provider incentives and how to properly manage them for the greatest patient and business outcomes. To read more about transparency’s role in PHM, download the white paper:   “Managing Populations to Improve Individual Care: Best Practices for Physician-based Population Health Management.”

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