How do Healthcare Executives Define “Population Health?”

Today, the concept of population health is more important in the healthcare industry than ever before. It has played a large role in many healthcare trends from payer-provider collaboration to hospital-community partnerships. Yet it remains a somewhat subjective term with many different views and interpretations.

The term “population health” first originated in 2003 with David Kindig and Greg Stoddart. They described it as “the health outcome of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group.” Yet many criticize this definition for being incomplete, saying it focuses only on outcomes and not on the actual healthcare providers that directly influence those outcomes. In a recent survey of healthcare leaders, only two out the 37 surveyed cited the 2003 definition. The prevailing opinion is that this definition itself is in need of an update.

A large number of healthcare leaders saw population health primarily as “an opportunity for healthcare systems, agencies, and organizations to work together in order to improve the health outcomes of the communities they serve.” Other survey participants like Dr. Richard L. Gilfillan, president and CEO of Trinity Health in Michigan, cited the Triple Aim Initiative. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement developed the Triple Aim initiative, which includes improved care, improved outcomes, and reduced costs. Many of the other healthcare leaders who participated in the survey saw the discussion on population health as an opportunity for healthcare systems and agencies to collaborate to improve health outcomes for the populations that they care for.

While there may not yet be a comprehensive, universal definition of population health, the discussion itself shows that the attitudes of care providers are constantly evolving as they work to make the health of their patients a top priority. For more information, visit the resources below:
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