Best Practices for Moving Closer to Population Health System Implementation

Co-authored by John Miller, Carl Keller, Ash Datta

Recently, HighPoint Solutions’ Population Health team wrote: What to do before implementing a population health system and Suggested timelines when preparing to implement a population health system for population health clinical leadership, providing tips for population health IT platform implementations. HighPoint recognizes the focus for clinical leadership and IT/technical leadership can vary. These tips are focused on assisting the IT/technical leadership with population health IT platform implementations.

As the organization is gathering its requirements for the first phase of implementation, it’s important to recognize the organization’s technical team will need to balance implementation timelines and the requirements of the new IT platform with requests and expectations of the clinical/business teams.

Understanding how things work

HighPoint has identified this as a key area where tensions may arise between the population health business teams and technical teams. When implementing a new IT platform, HighPoint likes to use the analogy of a watch. Clinical users see the hands on the watch moving, but may not understand the technical aspects of what makes the hands move.

The technical teams understand the level of technical intricacies and involvement with the requirements. Balancing the business teams’ requests, with the implementation deadline, is essential for the technical team to drive a successful and timely implementation.

Most healthcare organizations take a ‘phased’ approach to population health IT system implementations. For example, they may roll out case management first, then utilization management. Another approach is to implement phases by lines of business or products — for example, implementing the Medicaid business, then Commercial. They may also start small by automating some processes and then adding more automation once the end users are comfortable.

The biggest value HighPoint brings to any implementation is ensuring that the goals are achieved through evaluating and providing input on additional functionality/features which may delay the implementation and guard against project ‘scope creep.’

Often, healthcare organizations place too many requirements in the first phase, causing delays in the implementation. To achieve a successful implementation in the first phase, it’s recommended to ‘keep it simple.’ As the organization moves closer to implementation, HighPoint suggests using a ‘model office’ approach. The model office is a prototype that reflects the production environment that’s as close to the way things will work when the system is fully implemented.

A model office allows for validation of the system and its functionality. It also allows for those who will be using the system to provide ongoing feedback. This further reinforces buy-in, as it demonstrates the benefits of the new system. It can also address any issues as they arise.

The training process should be over a period of several months. Many software vendors use a “train-the-trainer approach” or “superusers.” Superusers should be trained so they can participate in User Acceptance Testing (UAT) prior to go live. End users should be trained two-to-four weeks before go live. They should be encouraged to use the system once they have been trained, because if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. And, we don’t want that to happen with the training that was provided. HighPoint works with the population health vendor to assist end users in adopting the new technology by offering creative methods for adoption and training.

Post-implementation traps

During post-implementation, healthcare organizations often fall into the trap of not training enough superusers, or not effectively documenting the details of the new business processes resulting from the new system implementation.

In either situation, if early superusers leave the organization, they’re also walking out the door with essential knowledge of the population health business processes. If an individual is trained on the system and later leaves, that knowledge is lost with their departure.

The health plan needs to continually train new hires on the system to maintain system knowledge. HighPoint can assist the healthcare organization’s training department by developing materials during- and post-implementation, and necessary follow-up training for subsequent implementation phases.

The Highpoint team plays a significant role as a liaison between the software vendor and your organization during the implementation of a new population health platform. HighPoint can work with both parties to ensure that the system implementation is successful.

To learn more about the HighPoint Population Health practice, please reach out to Chris McShanag, vice president, population health.

Co-authored by John Miller, Carl Keller, Ash Datta