Three ways to build a better population health team

June 3, 2017

Here are three things to consider when developing a population health management team at your organization.

As more healthcare organization focus on how population health strategies can help patients and lower costs, the need for more professionals with that special skillset are in high demand.

People with expertise in healthcare, but also data analytics, data science and user experience with data channels are the most sought after candidates, according to job-search website, Monster.com. Scribes, patient advocates and navigators, care coordinators, telehealth clinicians, actuaries, analysts, diabetes nurse educators, health coaches and chief population health officers are some of the most in-demand jobs that focus on population health.

Because the demand for this skill set ignited after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the amount of qualified candidates are slim. According to a 2014 American Hospital Association (AHA) survey of health plan and hospital CEOs, 60% of them say that the population health skillset is the hardest to find. Nearly half of executives surveyed say that community and population health management is the second largest talent gap in their organizations.

Below are three things to consider when developing a population health management team at your organization.

1. Diversity in healthcare experience

Because population health often involves various initiatives and multiple strategies, finding executives who have worked in several areas of healthcare is a good approach.

Ogundimu

Tomi Ogundimu, practice manager of research for The Advisory Board Company, says that many population health executives have worked on both the provider and payer side of healthcare, experience with care management, and familiar with clinical IT.

“Regardless of title, these leaders frequently share certain characteristics, including relatively long tenure at the organization, and they could have clinical credentials, but not a physician-most often a nurse leader,” Ogundimu says, adding that leaders with diverse background bring two important skills to population health management.

“They have an ability to foster relationships with physician leaders, cross-continuum partners, and other key healthcare stakeholders,” Ogundimu says. “Also, experience relevant to population management that often comes from expertise in physician management, health plan administration or strategic planning.”

2. Skills outside of healthcare

Looking for executives with retail, customer insight, enterprise risk management and insurance expertise could give your organization an innovative lead in population health strategies. Even candidates with backgrounds in data analytics, logistics and supply chain could be an asset for a population health team.

“Because of the healthcare field’s complexity, including the regulatory framework that organizations operate within, hospitals and care systems traditionally have recruited from within the sector for senior-level roles,” said the authors of the AHA study. “As they seek leaders in new disciplines, some organizations have become more willing to consider candidates from outside the field for certain roles that require skills that have been less developed within healthcare.”

3. Don’t lean on tech executives

Ogundimu says that many healthcare organizations make the mistake of leaning on their chief technology officer to also implement population health strategies. She says that it is important for the population health team to be an additional resource, not tacked on to an already full workload for the IT staff.

“Chief technology officers often fill in knowledge or competency gaps needed for population health management not found elsewhere in the health system leadership team," she says. "They have quite a bit on their plate, charged with developing the primary care infrastructure, expanding IT and risk analytics capabilities, organizing care management resources, and engaging external continuum partners.”

Ogundimu says that IT executives may have the organizational skillset to lead a population management team, but make sure they have the staff and support needed to work effectively.

“They drive transformational change in how a provider organization delivers care to patient populations by building relationships that are foundational for broad-based initiatives required under population health management models of care,” Ogundimu says.