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What is Population Health?

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Care providers improve wellness among groups of people by focusing on population health. This new paradigm is the result of health care reforms designed to improve community well-being. While the reforms have successfully initiated revised thinking among care providers, learning institutions must adjust as well. The shift in thinking is not complete, as provider networks have not fully utilized secondary medical services to support population health. Despite this, the new mindset has a profound effect on all communities and service providers.

Understanding Population Health

Medical professionals use the phrases “population health” and “the health of a population” interchangeably to describe community well-being. [1] The term has sparked an ongoing conversation regarding social factors affecting health care. As such, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) has developed a framework, called the Triple Aim, to gauge how care providers perform, which measures service improvement, population health and cost effectiveness regarding several community outcomes, such as:
• Blood pressure
• Cholesterol
• Chronic disease rates
• Dietary habits
• Life expectancy
• Physical activity
• Substance abuse
Health care professionals classify most groups by location and some by criteria such as ethnicity or income. Population health primarily focuses on outcomes among underserved patient groups and entails intervention and planning by care providers.

Population Health in the New Health Care Landscape

Sweeping health care reforms have caused organizations to shift their income motivation from individual payments to population based reward models. The practice, called population management, involves the delivery and monitoring of community services such as:
• Health care planning
• Service delivery
• Treatment coordination
• Quality based payment models
In this new environment, providers use tools such as accountable care organizations, risk stratification models, electronic patient records, patient centered medical services and team-based initiatives to manage population health and are shifting from focusing on efficient caseload management to promoting illness prevention. This effective paradigm is forging a new kind of relationship between patients, providers and medical record services that involves delivering care at residences and multidisciplinary collaboration.

Preparing for America’s Future Population Health Needs

A 2016 report published by the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice (NACNEP) expresses the growing demand for specialty nurse practitioners, noting that changing roles require schools to adjust their curriculums. [2] In many high-risk areas, nurse practitioners are the only health care professionals available. As frontline caregivers, nurses can relay community needs directly to provider networks.
With this growing information source, undergraduate programs will learn how to prepare candidates to meet forthcoming service demands. Meanwhile, medical facilities must train veteran nurses to function in a population health oriented environment.
• Population Health for Women

In a recent interview with Advisory Board health care consulting firm analyst Sarah Hostetter, Doctor Steven Seltzer of the Department of Radiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts discussed the role of imaging in population health. [3] The doctor expressed that the population health mindset has yet to permeate ancillary care services such as radiology, which serves patients with existing conditions. However, the doctor states, ancillary services can provide support for population health via screening and resource management, allowing care providers to gain a better understanding of community health outcomes and control organizational expenses.

• Population Health in the Pediatric Community

In northern Texas, two normally competitive facilities are collaborating to improve population health among children. [4] The détente is an example of how the medical community is realizing that collaboration is a prerequisite to serving approaching health care demands. Duly, pediatric care providers are adjusting their practices in preparation for a forecast increase in caseloads. The specialists recognize that the changes will improve patient outcomes and fiscal efficiency. More importantly, the practitioners want to produce significant health improvements among non-adult populations.

• How Mental Health Affects Population Health

A presentation published for the 2015 Mental Health America Conference, outlines how reform encourages practitioners to improve population health and cites an empirically proven relationship between physical and mental health as well as the fact that, historically, one in four individuals has suffered from mental distress accompanied by multiple illnesses every year. [5] As such, the group highlighted the need to include mental wellness in population health frameworks.

Advocating for Population Health

The National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice calls for funding to prepare nursing candidates for the reinvented United States health care practice. [2] The organization suggests that educators in at-risk communities seek funding to meet talent demand, reduce administrative expenses and expand services, citing shortages for students and patients. The group implores legislators to devote funding to nurse training for community residents and technology to deliver services to at-risk populations. The NACNEP also suggests relaxed legislation allowing nurse practitioners to deliver services to at-risk communities and incentives encouraging nurses to take on as much responsibility as their knowledge and experience allows.
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Adventist University started building its solid foundation for nursing education in 1908 when it began training nurses so healthcare could be provided for more people. Today they offer cutting edge education and experienced faculty dedicated to helping individuals interested in pursuing a bachelor of science in nursing degree.