Population Health Management: Challenges and Benefits

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hospital staff discussing population health management

As populations continue to grow and diversify, their healthcare needs become more complex. Healthcare facilities that employ a population health management (PHM) approach to care, which considers patient determinants such as culture, education, employment and income when prescribing a treatment plan, often find their patients have better outcomes.

PHM uses business intelligence (BI) tools to aggregate data about various patient populations and provides medical professionals with insights about the efficiency of various care regimes within each one. For example, PHM insights may help doctors know that a cancer treatment protocol for African American patients who are over the age of 65 may be less effective for African American patients in that same age bracket who also suffer from diabetes.

PHM software also provides a comprehensive clinical picture of each patient, which healthcare providers can use to prescribe treatment plans, track progress and improve patient outcomes.

Healthcare administrators who are interested in advancing in their careers are likely to find that completing a graduate degree, such as an online Master of Health Administration (MHA) with a Population Health concentration, can help them toward that goal. Upon completion of the program, graduates often find they’ve developed the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in advancing population-based medicine.

Benefits of Understanding the Changing Needs of Populations

The healthcare needs of various populations are becoming more complex. Not only are people living longer, but patients with longer life expectancy may find they’re vulnerable to chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure (hypertension) and cancer. As such, some of today’s patient populations may be under the care of multiple specialists at the same time.

Completing a master’s in health administration program with a population health concentration can help healthcare administrators understand the growing health complexities and problems of various patient populations.

Benefits of Understanding How to Work with a Diverse Range of Individuals

Modern-day physicians often provide care to multicultural patient populations. This requires doctors to understand how patients’ cultural and social differences can impact their health. For example, some patients’ religious beliefs call for limited medical treatment and may prohibit them from receiving vaccinations, certain medications or treatment for mental illness. Hospitalized Muslims may choose to avoid hospital food and instead eat food prepared by their families to ensure that dietary standards are met.

Healthcare administrators who have completed an MHA often find they’re better able to understand these populations, the health issues they’re facing and how to help improve their quality of care.

Using Population Health Management to Provide High-Quality Care

As populations grow and their care needs become more complex, it becomes increasingly difficult for healthcare organizations and practitioners to provide quality care. A successful PHM program will provide real-time insights about patients to both hospital administrators and clinicians. When BI software is used to analyze data collected from population groups at the hospital, national and international levels, it can be used to help manage specific diseases or diagnoses within those groups. This approach has been proven to improve clinical outcomes and reduce disease management costs.

Coursework in Duquesne University’s online MHA program with a Population Management concentration has been designed to teach healthcare administrators how to treat large quantities of patients without reducing the quality of care.

Using PHM to Act as a Health Advocate on Behalf of Populations

Certain populations and groups may have their health needs ignored or not fully addressed by healthcare organizations. For example, according to Heluna Health, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides program services and fiscal sponsorship for over 500 population health projects, some community health problems may have less to do with preexisting conditions, and instead may be more directly correlated with patients’ access to care.

According to Heluna Health’s website, “The source of one community’s health problems might be due to a lack of health care clinics in their region, or even lack of public transportation to clinics. When we understand what some of these determining factors are, we can become better problem-solvers in creating health improvement programs.”

Coursework in Duquesne University’s online MHA program enables administrators to obtain leadership roles and act as health advocates to individuals in underserved populations.

Learn More About Duquesne University’s Online MHA Program

Healthcare administrators who have an interest in learning more about the significance of population health management and how to implement a successful PHM program are likely to find that completing an advanced degree can provide them with the tools and knowledge they’ll need to be successful.

Duquesne University’s online MHA program with a Population Health concentration has been designed to teach healthcare administrators how to both identify gaps in care and develop customized programs for the patient populations they serve.

Discover how the online MHA at Duquesne University can help you take the next step in your career.


Recommended Reading

MHA vs. MBA: What Students Need to Know

Deciding Between a MHA and a MPA: Which One Is Right for You?

In-Demand MHA Career Opportunities for Graduates


Athena Health, “Population Health Knowledge Hub

CNN Health, “‘Inoculate Yourself With the Word of God’: How Religion Can Limit Medical Treatment”

Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, “What Are the Key Population Health Management Capabilities?”

Heluna Health, Why Systems Thinking in Population Health Is Important

National Association of Community Health Centers, Population Health Management

Oxford Academic, “Population Health Management: Review of Concepts and Definitions”

Philips, What Is Population Health Management? StatPearls, “Cultural Competence in the Care of Muslim Patients and Their Families”

The Doctors Company, “Challenges of Cultural Diversity in Healthcare: Protect Your Patients and Yourself”