The Future of Health Care: Population Health Management

Posted by Janae Melvin on September 25, 2015 in Care, College, Health, OU, The
The Affordable Care Act has changed our country’s healthcare landscape and Ottawa University is right in the thick of the change. In spring 2016, OU will proudly offer a new, online MBA track: Population Health Management (PHM), a specialty area that focuses on improving the health of defined populations. It is a new way to approach healthcare, based on entire groups that share commonalities rather than solely individual health. According to Jan Simon, MHSA, RN and lead faculty member for OU’s Health Care Management program, “Population Health Management is a snapshot of the health status of a group of people and what contributes to it.” 
Populations are defined in a multitude of ways, such as Medicaid members, people with congestive heart failure in a geographic area or all people living within a certain radius of a hospital, making the population divisions limitless. OU’s PHM track trains healthcare professionals like administrators, social workers, therapists, physicians and nurses to administer aspects of the programs such as care coordination, behavior change, use of technology and data and outcomes measurement.
“One key component is to use large data sets (such as claims or demographic data) to define the population that they are working with, identify risk factors (such as disease prevalence) and then design programs to help mitigate that risk and improve the health status of the population,” said Simon.  
It’s a daunting task but OU graduates will be up for it after completing the program. 
The first course taken in the track is an overview of the PHM profession, followed by Health Informatics, Program Development for Improved Outcomes and Return on Investment for Health Care Programs. Each course delves into a different area of PHM, so students will graduate with the tools they’ll need to tackle real-world problems. The classes teach practical strategies to improve populations’ health and show students how to design their own PHM programs. Students will also leave with the ability to analyze the financial aspects of PHM.
The University’s goal is to bridge the gap between clinicians and administrators affected by ACA. Because few academic PHM programs exist, professionals currently attend conferences to glean information. Recognizing a need for a more thorough education, this program will require four, three-credit hour classes like other MBA programs, ensuring OU students graduate ready to help health care professionals traverse these new waters. “These courses will provide students with enough knowledge in PHM to create, implement and measure outcomes of PHM programs,” said Simon. “One thing to keep in mind is that this is a track of the MBA, so the students will also be learning all the skills and knowledge contained in the MBA program.”
After this rigorous training, OU graduates will be prepared to jump into a fast growing health care career. “Population Health Management jobs exist in hospitals, clinics, provider organizations, insurance companies, both state and federal government offices and non-profit agencies,” said Simon. The need is there and OU will answer it. For information about the Population Health Management program, please contact Jan Simon.