What is a Population Health Manager?
According to Merriam-Webster, to manage is to “handle or direct with a degree of skill; to exercise executive, administrative, and supervisory direction” of something. In this case, that something is population health. The next logical question, then, is, “What is population health?”
While definitions vary, population health is primarily a collaborative and data-driven effort to improve the health care of specific populations while also decreasing health disparities among those same and other populations. These groups can be people who live in a specific geographic area or those defined by attributes such as ethnicity or age.
What is Population Health Management?
According to The Institute of Healthcare Improvement, population health management (PHM) is a trifecta of improving population health, boosting the patient experience, and reducing per capita health care costs - their Triple Aim philosophy. To accomplish this, the population health manager must focus on the intersection of public health, community health, and population health from a holistic management perspective.
Public health focuses primarily on policy recommendations and health outreach efforts to improve health outcomes of individuals and communities. Health education is often a key component of public health. Most cities have public health agencies that coordinate these efforts. Community health, on the other hand, focuses on health assessments of groups within a common locale, while population health deals with patterns of health, health care, and access to care, along with the changes needed to improve each. Together they provide the foundation upon which population health management becomes effective.
Origins of Population Health Management
The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) notes that population health management grew largely out of its promotion of measurement and accountability of health care organizations, the elevation of value-based care that moved to the forefront of the health care sphere, and various federal policies that codified population health. One such policy came through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which mandated new models of care and financing that require entities to engage in the active management of various populations.
To better understand and more uniformly implement PHM, NCQA developed a PHM model that puts the patient at the center, with an emphasis on “‘whole patient care’ rather than disease-centered care.” Surrounding the patient are key components for the execution of a comprehensive population health management strategy. These include community resources integration, population identification, data integration, risk stratification, performance measurement, care delivery systems, and health plans/payers. The population health manager can then follow NCQA's roadmap for successfully implementing this PMH model.
Versatility of Population Health
It is important to note that population health management is not relegated to health care organizations or personnel. This field requires the collaboration of multiple entities, from public health departments, social service agencies, community health groups, physicians, pharmacists, psychologists, nurses, and more to provide coordinated services. It is also heavily reliant on data and statistical analysis surrounding socioeconomic status, physical environment, mental health, insurance claims, medical histories and other information to proactively manage and drive equitable, cost-effective care and promote healthy populations. For example, such data might be analyzed to assess emergency room use by sub-populations and develop tailored medical service for those who disproportionately utilize the ER for care, thus reducing ER visits and costs. Health care administrators/population health managers might also be tasked with creating and managing the roll-out of an organization's population health programs, purchasing software and overseeing its implementation, managing training, and ensuring that appropriate data is being collected.
Because population health strategies are aimed at increasing the efficiency of health care delivery and reducing costs, many health care and community organizations are hiring population health managers who have the targeted education and experience to make a meaningful impact on their overall care and business models. A clinical background is not required for a career in population health management, though physicians, nurses, and other clinical professionals can gain a highly marketable skill set by completing population health management training. In addition, those with a Bachelor's in Human and Social Services, a Bachelor's in Leadership or a bachelor's degree in business are also excellent candidates for furthering their education in this field.
Population Health Job Opportunities
Health management positions in the U.S., including population health management jobs, are in demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there is projected to be a 32% increase in such jobs through 2029 – a growth rate that is much faster than the national average for all jobs. And the median salary is listed as $104,280.
Opportunities for population health managers exist within such organizations as hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, government programs, as well as newer business models like Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). For those trained in business, there are additional opportunities in the design, implementation and measurement of health care administration programs and health care systems.
How to Become a Population Health Manager
Population health management positions are considered leadership roles in many organizations. Designing, implementing and managing a population health program requires advanced analytical skills, technical capabilities, and communication strategies. That's why the right training is critical.
Ottawa University's MBA in Population Health is designed specifically for this rapidly emerging specialty area. Offered in conjunction with the health care management concentration, the population health courses focus on such issues as the legal, ethical and political aspects of health care management; the regulatory systems and qualitative assessment within health care environments; population health management; and program development for improved outcomes. Couple this training with the core courses of the MBA, and you will emerge with an arsenal of knowledge on managerial finance, organizational behavior, value systems and professional ethics, management of information systems, management accounting, and more.
The MBA in Population Health is one of Ottawa University's accelerated online degrees, making it both convenient and tailored to your pace. Our eight-week terms allow you to double up on courses to finish more quickly, take them one at a time, or take a term off if needed. We are a fully accredited university with convenient locations in Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Phoenix.
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