As the healthcare industry focuses on value-based care, tracking data on health outcomes among patient populations will be crucial. Both population health and public health focus on improving care and outcomes across large groups of patients. While they may sound similar, population and public health have important distinctions.
What Is the Population Health Approach to Patient Care?
Population health focuses on improving health for a group of individuals and understanding the drivers of both good and bad health outcomes, explains Dr. Howard Hu, chair and professor of population and public health sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC). The drivers consist of the “the characteristics, the lifestyle factors and environmental factors that actually influence health and the differences between individuals,” he says.
Under the population health umbrella, healthcare providers manage a well-defined population over a period of time, explains John Moore, founder and managing partner at Chilmark Research.
“The way we’ve defined population health today in the context of the U.S. market, we’ve tied it to a given population that will be cared for under a given contract,” Moore says. “So, when we look at population health management, it’s usually for a defined subset of a population, not everyone in a given region or a given locale.”