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    Defining Public Health and Population Health

    By Amanda Hargreaves

    Population health

    Clearing up the confusion between public health and population health

    Public Health and Population Health are often used interchangeably.  Both monitor health trends and they both deal with the health of groups of people or communities rather than at an individual level.  The term Population Health has been used now for over 25 years but if like me you often confuse the two, this article highlights the differences between the two.

    There are clear distinctions in the approaches used to treat Population Health and Public Health


    Public Health

    The Oxford dictionary defines public health as “the health of a population as a whole, especially as the subject of government regulation and support” so is focused on the Health situation of the public at large.

    Population Health

    This is described as “the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group”.  This has a focus on the geographic nature of treating patients in groups.

    In population health, scientists are especially interested in the differences in outcomes of a particular group that can be explained by social demographics such as such as income, education, access to health care, ratios of healthcare workers to patients.

    What is Population Health?

    In short, population health is an approach that aims to improve physical and mental health outcomes, promote wellbeing and reduce health inequalities across an entire population.

    The main elements to population health are Information-powered clinical decision-making, primary care-led clinical workforce and patient engagement and community integration.  Examples of population health programs may include efforts to increase the frequency of child vaccinations, reduce the rate of teen pregnancy, or enhance smoking cessation for adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

    Population health is a vast area with huge potential and a nearly an unlimited range of possibilities. The sheer number of illnesses and diseases across different social or geographical factors, makes it almost impossible to know where to start.

    There have been a huge number of Health IT companies flooding into the population health market.  With private equity and venture capital money flowing into the population health space It has become a business and a very competitive one at that.

    There are companies focussing on a particular disease or condition, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, liver disease that monitor patients over time, improving outcomes and patient progress against a disease over time.  These companies are integrating with electronic health records, and can help clinicians and researchers better manage care plans and boost engagement for patients with chronic conditions.


    Health Management

    Population Health Management refers to the process of improving clinical health outcomes of a defined group of individuals through improved care coordination and patient engagement supported by appropriate financial and care models.  Put simply it’s about how we use data insights to improve health and wellbeing today and in the future.

    Value-based care has been driving growth in this area as we are trying to understand more about disease and improve access to care for large groups of people whilst reducing costs.  An increase in preventive care may help reduce emergency room visits, lower hospital admissions and readmissions, and shorten hospital lengths of stay, all of which help control costs.

    Organisations that leverage patient motivation, expand patient access to care, and provide community-based resources that account for social determinants of health can be successful in improving outcomes via population health management programs.

    Trends to watch


    COVID had a huge impact on telehealth during the pandemic and transformed access to care and how care is being delivered.  Telehealth, telemedicine and remote patient monitoring are here to stay.  Telehealth is improving with consumers becoming more comfortable using digital tools such as texting, online portals and AI powered chatbots to give personalised healthcare advice and support.  Wearables will increase in popularity enabling monitoring of chronic disease and illness as well as improving how we age.  Telehealth can help catch disease early, improve how we monitor and capture information and monitor trends across social or geographical demographics.


    Social determinants of health (SDOH) are conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality-of life-risks and outcomes.  Examples of SDOH can be access to nutritious food and physical activity opportunities, racism, discrimination and violence.

    An emerging trend in tackling SDOH is a greater focus on analysing barriers to care at the population level and then investing in community programs that can have the greatest impact on the most people. Focus on SDOH through community work, policies, addressing poverty will likely see improvements in population health.

    Addressing disparities

    There is an overlap between SDOH and addressing disparities.  Addressing healthcare disparities remains a focus area for population health leaders. Disparities in outcomes and access are deep rooted problems that lend themselves to a population health approach, but improving health outcomes and solving disparities will take time and is not a quick-fix.

    Innovative Companies

    Altruista Health provides a suite of technology solutions that support collaborative, data-driven and person-centered approaches to population health management. Founded in 2007, Altruista Health has been recognized by Becker’s Healthcare as a Top Population Health Company to Know. Their solutions remove barriers to care, reduce avoidable healthcare expenses and improve health outcomes for millions of American.

    Apixio is a data science company who are advancing healthcare with data-driven intelligence and analytics. Their Artificial Intelligence platform gives organizations across the healthcare spectrum the power to mine clinical information at scale, creating novel insights that will change the way healthcare is measured, care is delivered, and discoveries are made.

    Babyscripts  is a virtual care platform for obstetrics that allows OBGYNs to deliver a new model of prenatal care. The platform is powered by a suite of mobile apps that drive better patient decision making, internet-connected devices for remote monitoring, and a host of population health tools to give providers access to patient data in real time.

    Gomo Health is a leader in population health management, specializing in designing, implementing, and marketing award-winning, personalized patient engagement solutions that support the continuum of care and new incentive-based reimbursements.

    GSI Health has been acquired by Medecision, an integrated health management solutions company that supports the health and care of more than 50 million consumers nationwide. The GSI Health platform provides workflow, engagement and compliance solutions for health systems to coordinate and optimize value-based care.

    Emocha uses video technology and human engagement to empower patients to take every dose of medication as prescribed. emocha facilitates a daily touchpoint for patients in order to expand access to treatment, extend the reach of existing care teams, and retain patients in care.

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