At UNTHSC, we are driven to improve the human condition.
We do this with a passion for innovation and teamwork in our collaborative laboratories, classrooms and clinics, where teams of providers focus on patients’ individual needs.
But in today’s rapidly changing health care environment, we must ask ourselves: How can we make the greatest impact improving the human condition in our community?
One way is through population health.
What is population health?
Ask 10 health care professionals what population health means and you may get 10 different answers. A precise definition remains the subject of debate, even as awareness of the concept grows.
Population health management is intended to improve the health and well-being of specific groups of people. This differs somewhat from public health, which puts greater emphasis on improving the health and well-being of everyone.
Population health groups may be many things — people with diabetes, living in West Texas or enrolled in the same health care plan. They may be people working at construction sites, living near a power plant or on similar diets.
Population health is people-focused, harnessing big data to measure outcomes within a group, identify obstacles and help determine what resources and interventions are needed to improve that group’s health and well-being.
Why is it important?
Rising costs strain our health care system. As we evolve from a fee-for-service model of health care delivery to an outcomes-based model, improving the health of populations and not just individual patients has become a focal point.
Future providers are not only expected to improve the health of the person in their exam room, but also the overall health of the communities they serve.
Population health management can lead to increased access to medical care, fewer unnecessary hospitalizations and the discovery of novel ways to deliver care.
What UNTHSC is doing?
There are already examples of population health approaches at UNTHSC, such as innovative diabetes research with our partner Quest Diagnostics.
Quest has the world’s largest database of clinical lab results. Our researchers are studying this valuable data to reach conclusions about diabetes that could change health care policy, identify the most effective treatments and transform health care management for all people with diabetes.
Next, UNTHSC will explore the creation of a center or institute dedicated to population health and strategies to better integrate the concept into our classrooms, clinics and laboratories. We are assessing our current population health assets and the most pressing health needs in our community.
Leading this effort are Provost Dr. Charles Taylor; Dr. S. Suresh Madhavan, Dean of the College of Pharmacy; Dr. Dennis Thombs, Dean of the School of Public Health; Dr. Brian Gladue, Associate Vice President of Research; and the President’s Council for Research.
I am excited to see where this path will lead us.
Dr. Michael R. Williams