While population health management is not yet in full swing, it is the direction in which healthcare reform is moving. Population health management is a quantum shift in the way we perceive and deliver healthcare. As marketers, we must be ready and willing to change how and what we communicate. And we’ll need to be able to articulate it to internal and external stakeholders as well as consumers.
While some people are fearful that population health management will make marketers irrelevant, in actuality we should become MORE vital because communication is a critical part of population health management success.
A population can be defined in many ways: people living within the same geographic community, employees at a company or members of an insurance plan. Population health management is, at its essence, an initiative to help keep healthy people healthy, assist the chronically ill in managing their illnesses, and provide better overall personal health information to everyone. It is a movement away from “heads in beds” and toward prevention and community-wide wellness.
As it unfolds, healthcare marketers will become less traditional marketers and more community health educators.
Healthcare providers will shift focus away from finding sick people and toward targeting groups of people who may be at risk for various conditions. They will need our expert communication skills to reach these groups. We’ll need our entire toolbox (digital, social, traditional, grassroots, etc.) to provide relevant and compelling information to support healthy habits and change poor health behaviors. Social media, as a tactic, already is and will increasingly become more important in this effort.
- Research into the use of social media in population health is well under way.
- Population health management has a variety of hashtags to enable more followers to connect on Twitter.
- Twitter is already a tool for tracking and disseminating health information about the flu and other epidemics.
- Facebook has a wide variety of social groups segmented by illness– from blood disorders to HIV to diabetes.
And then there is big data, all that information collected about patients. It’s a gold mine that many technology companies are already digging into and analyzing so we can segment, reach, and track specific populations. Witness that wearable biometric trackers such as Fitbit® are being incorporated into corporate wellness programs to help reward those employees who are staying healthy. In addition, insurance companies are figuring out how they might use wearables data for risk mapping and setting premiums.
With the right analytics software, hospitals could, for example, discover that a significant portion of their ER patients had symptoms that included a pre-diabetes diagnosis. You could then reach those people with prevention strategies.
Finding, segmenting, and tracking populations are vital parts of population health management. Once achieved, communication is the next step. That’s where we, as healthcare marketers, are poised to make a more significant and positive change in personal and community health.
To learn more about how to effectively communicate to your target audience and what your future holds as a healthcare marketer, download our free white paper and learn about the five things you must be doing now. Join the conversation. How is your organization preparing population health management?