One of the most popular phrases in healthcare today is “population health,” a term that is meant to be indicative of managing a group of patients in a way that is both comprehensive and cost-effective. The phrase gets many public-health oriented clinicians and organization leaders excited, but may present a daunting challenge to finance folks: What does it mean to provide population health from a financial perspective?
The most important step in preparing finances for population health is streamlining financial reporting. It is the temptation of accountants and financial analysts to run reports and numbers, but everything that is normally done should be assessed for value. In a population health delivery system, value-based care is the gold standard, and financial departments must be aware of the value they add, as well.
Automation can help to generate specific reports for divisions and departments, freeing up time of financial analysts to focus on assessing costs and impacts. Spikes in costs should be monitored for volume consistency, and mismatches in supply cost and volume should be examined for outliers and reduction opportunities.
In a true population health-based system, costs should also be mapped to outcome. Doing so gives the CFO and the financial department evidence for reducing variations in supplies and can help avoid costly procedures or treatments that are largely ineffective. Population health means gathering and using information, including costs. By focusing on analyzing data rather than just generating it, the finance department can become an integral asset to population health systems.