"Population Health" provides guidance for ACOs and others taking health risk

"Population Health -Creating a Culture of Wellness"  (http://www.amazon.com/Population-Health-Creating-Culture-Wellness/dp/076378043X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1298394113&sr=8-1)  is a new book that provides a comprehensive overview of the issues involved in understanding and managing the health of large groups of people.  Coauthored by David Nash, Dean of Thomas Jefferson University's School of Population Health, the book is separated into sections describing the processes of providing population-based health services, the business issues surrounding those services and the infrastructure needed to support them, public policy issues and models, and the future of population health.  It discusses quality and safety issues, risk management and the law,  communication methods for reaching the population, and other important topics.  A chapter is dedicated to disease management of chronic care patients, whose costs comprise the majority of all healthcare costs and whose management will be critical to the success of accountable care organizations.

Several chapters are dedicated to the information technology infrastructure that will be necessary to support population health initiatives.  Electronic health record (EHR) systems, whose goal is to provide operational data to the health system, are distinguished from data warehouses designed aggregate information to provide information about the overall population.  The book discusses the steps that are necessary to create a common terminology (ontology) to describe the data obtained from various sources, and the mapping process that is necessary to consolidate these multiple sources into a useable data framework.  It discusses various types of risk adjustment, and the need for such adjustments to accommodate differences in patient conditions, thereby avoiding disincentives for physicians to treat high-cost patients with complex conditions.

For hospital managers and physicians whose primary focus is on treating patient illnesses, "Population Health" provides a helpful structure for understanding and designing the systems and processes that will be necessary to succeed under population-based payment models.