Population health and medicine: Policy and financial drivers

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Purpose The financial and policy levers of population health and potential opportunities for pharmacists are described.

Summary Three long-standing problems drive the focus on population health: (1) the United States suffers far worse population health outcomes compared with those of other developed nations that spend significantly less on healthcare, (2) the U.S. healthcare system’s focus on “sick care” fails to address upstream prevention and population health improvement, and (3) financial incentives for healthcare delivery are poorly aligned with improvements in population health outcomes. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) was arguably the first major healthcare legislation since 1965 and had 3 main strategies for improving population health: expand health insurance coverage, control healthcare costs, and improve the healthcare delivery system. Federal and state legislation as well as Medicare and Medicaid financing strategies have designated mechanisms to reward advances in population outcomes since the passage of the ACA. States are responsible for many of the factors that affect population health, and a bipartisan effort that builds upon state and federal collaboration will likely be needed to implement the necessary health policy initiative. Population health issues affect productivity in the United States; conversely, improvements in population health may increase productivity, helping to offset the rising federal debt. Employers are in a position to improve population health and consequently help reduce the federal debt by addressing lifestyle, chronic disease, poverty, and inequality. National pharmacy organizations, regulatory bodies, and journal editors need to collectively agree to a threshold of quality and rigor for publication and endorsement.

Conclusion Knowledge of the policy and financial drivers of population health may both support pharmacists’ efforts to improve population outcomes and identify opportunities for professional advancement.



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