Hospitals and health systems plunging into population health management have a great resource for how to tackle specific aspects of that form of health care: other hospitals and health systems.
Certainly, a hospital is going to want to formulate its own tailored approach to population health management, and this month's H&HN cover story is a good resource on how to get started.
But there are an infinite number of ways to actually try to improve a population's health once the targeted group's health needs have been identified. So, why not take a look at what others are doing for inspiration?
Citizens Memorial Healthcare in Bolivar, Mo., is a hospital that appears to be taking a commonsense approach to encouraging the AARP set to exercise more. It's no secret that people of a certain age, many of whom are on a fixed income, tend to be less inclined to pay the often steep monthly fees of a health club, despite the benefits of lifting weights and aerobic exercise.
Citizens Memorial, one of several hospitals and systems profiled in the American Hospital Association's annual Community Connections report, solves that obstacle through a senior health center that offers health and fitness services free of charge to those 55 and older. The free services offered by Citizens include open pool time and hot tub use, exercise equipment, exercise classes, strength-building classes, a walking trail, Internet access and health education.
That removes what can be a huge obstacle to better health for seniors.
Two other approaches in the recently released report involve easier access to a nurse's advice, and sound like efficient ways to improve population health.
St. Luke Community Healthcare, in Ronan, Mont., offers a free, 24/7 nurse-staffed call center that seeks to offer "consistent, evidence-based and physician-approved answers to questions about vexing and sometimes life-threatening situations," according to the report. The nurses ask triage questions you might hear in an emergency room, and then use a computer program to provide evidence based answers. The program eases the stress on the critical access hospital, allowing it to reduce ED visits and also get a handle on future demand.
A somewhat similar program is offered by Bryn Mawr (Pa.) Hospital, which provides free, in-person health promotion, counseling, education, referral and care management by a registered nurse. Initially made available to seniors at eight community centers, the Ask-A-Nurse program has been expanded to underinsured and uninsured people of all ages at two other centers.
Nurses can be a great resource, and are often an untapped resource. But being married to one, I have a different perspective on the matter than most.
Regardless, this is just a small sample of what's going on in the field to boost population health. If you know of others worthy of attention, feel free to comment below, or contact me via email, Twitter or Google+.