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How to Lead the Population Health Discussion at HIMSS18

In the healthcare industry, population health just keeps getting hotter each year as one of the leading categories of interest. In addition to a dozen population health sessions across all five days of HIMSS18, this will be the first HIMSS conference to include a Solutions Lab that showcases IT solutions for improving population health. 185 HIMSS exhibitors this year selected “population health management” as one of their product/service categories. Still more exhibitors, as we’ve seen in HIMSS past, will include a strong population health component in their pitches.

Against this backdrop, many suppliers of population health solutions will fail to connect with the buyers they encounter. This happens annually, often for the same basic reasons:

  • The dazzle of new technology is often expressed in technical terms, rather than being presented as an enabler of compelling business benefits.
  • Fierce competition in the healthcare industry puts pressure on solution providers to outdo competitors with the latest dazzle, perpetuating misalignment.
  • Every discussion that emphasizes technology over buyers’ needs, in buyers’ terms, misses a golden opportunity to tap into buyer motivations at a time of peak interest.

Simply put, health IT decision-makers aren’t terribly interested in technology per se. They certainly don’t have “Is your technology unique?” as a lead concern. What they do focus on are solutions that will most clearly address their challenges. The job of every healthcare IT marketer with a population health solution is to help them understand the real need for the solution at hand.

What is population health, anyway?

While most healthcare IT professionals have an idea as to the meaning of population health, not everyone sees it the same way. It’s a very broad topic – so broad that at past HIMSS conferences, it seemed as though every vendor advanced “population health” in some way.

To best align with audiences on population health, sharpen your focus on the basics. When David Kindig and Greg Stoddart introduced the concept in 2003, they defined population health as “the health outcome of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group.” HIMSS attendees who are buyers of population-health solutions will see this in terms of the communities they serve, and ask: How can we elevate health outcomes for the entire population of patients under our care?

With buyers’ understanding of population health as the starting point, you can begin crafting the population health story that will tap into buyer motivations.

“The trend for population health is shifting the focus to helping people make better choices that improve their health and wellness,” said Susan Dubuque, a nationally recognized behavioral marketing expert, and author of Gearing up for Population Health: Marketing for a Change, a publication by the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Marketing Development of the American Hospital Association.

According to Dubuque, “Marketers are ideally suited to be a catalyst for this type of change. After all, every successful marketing campaign requires change – specifically, changing the way someone thinks, feels or behaves.”

Elements of a meaningful population health story

There is, of course, no one-size-fits-all approach for positioning your solution relative to population health. Consider the following:

  • Healthcare IT vendors can help provider organizations advance population health in a variety of ways, and no single solution is the single key to elevating health across an entire population.
  • Therefore, consider where your solution fits into population health initiatives. How do you contribute to a rising tide that lifts all boats? Do you aid in identifying at-risk populations? Does your solution improve care coordination or continuity? Does it reduce inappropriate emergency department usage and hospital readmissions? Regardless of your contribution, look beyond individual patients and episodes of care.
  • Remember that it’s not all about diagnosis and treatment; tracking and reporting are critical elements of population health initiatives. Even if that’s not your core function, you get bonus points if you can credibly claim to support the business aims of value-based care.
  • Finally, supply proof points. Case studies that clearly illustrate your contribution to successful population health initiatives, and any quantifiable evidence regarding improvements you’ve been part of, will go a long way toward making buyers comfortable that what you say is fact.

HIMSS18 is an excellent opportunity to bring it all together. The imperative is increasing for provider organizations to succeed with population health, and IT solutions are increasing their ability to contribute to that success.

It all gets a bit cloudy when healthcare IT marketers present stories regarding their population health value that don’t quite hit the mark. Focus instead on presenting a credible, meaningful story about your own solutions, closely aligned with real provider needs, and you’ll greatly improve your ability to rise above the noise to connect with buyers.

For help crafting your story, contact us at info@ndp.agency.


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