Population Health's Impact on the Private Practice

As the push to implement population health initiatives gets underway, Lonnie Joe, MD, is still mulling over whether his private practice can survive the changes he’ll have to make to participate in this emerging model of care.

Like many private practice physicians, Joe, an internist who has been practicing for almost three decades, is trying to tailor his four-year-old group practice in Detroit, Michigan, to meet the defined goals of population health: identifying groups of patients with specific medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, or cancer, and implementing a variety of health management approaches to improve these patients’ outcomes.

With a population that is aging rapidly (the number of people aged 65 and older is projected to be 83.7 million by 2050, compared with 43.1 million in 2012), the urgency to build a smarter healthcare system that targets older patients, patients with chronic illnesses and others who are more susceptible to worsening health conditions requires a fundamental transformation in how care is delivered and paid for.  

Population health is one of many health reform initiatives that stakeholders claim will slow the rise in healthcare costs and improve patient outcomes. However, for small-to-medium size physician practices, implementing this model often will require redesigning their practices as they adopt new incentive payment models that involve taking additional steps to closely monitor patients so as to improve their health. 

Such an endeavor requires additional staff, better patient engagement and more technology to support population health initiatives. 

“Implementing a long-term population health strategy at private practice physicians’ offices requires a team-based model of care with skilled personnel and infrastructure, all of which requires adequate financial support,” says Nitin Damle, MD, FACP, president-elect of the American College of Physicians.  

By Nicole Lewis

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