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How Are Population Health, Patient Engagement Different?

Topic: How Are Population Health, Patient Engagement Different?

Population health and patient engagement have emerged as critical in the push for value-based care in recent years. As the healthcare industry pushes toward reimbursement models that emphasize value and outcomes, it has recognized the role the patient and the health of populations will have in achieving key outcomes.

The trouble, which is seen across a number of healthcare concepts, is population health and patient engagement can be somewhat nebulous topics. Although both have had a consequential impact on the industry’s progress toward value-based care, it is easy for stakeholders to use these terms interchangeably or to conflate them into one.

However, population health and patient engagement are two distinct concepts that require different approaches and tools. Below, PatientEngagementHIT reviews population health and patient engagement, and outlines the differences between the two.


Population health looks at the health of a group of people, leverages community and community-based health concepts, and aims to improve the outcomes of those people and reduce healthcare costs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, population health is an “interdisciplinary, customizable approach that allows health departments to connect practice to policy for change to happen locally,” the agency says on its website. “This approach utilizes non-traditional partnerships among different sectors of the community — public health, industry, academia, health care, local government entities, etc. — to achieve positive health outcomes.”

For example, a population health strategy may zero in on a certain neighborhood within a city. Stakeholders may enlist the help of healthcare organizations (they may be the organizing stakeholders to begin with), public health agencies, and community health partners in both the public and private sectors.

Together, those entities would design a program aimed at improving the health of that population, like the average blood pressure or body mass index.

Population health strategies may also focus on a group of people with a shared health ailment. For example, population health interventions may look at a group of patients with diabetes. The population health effort might involve clinical interventions, referral to nutritious food resources, and diet and nutrition coaching.

The goal would be to improve clinical metrics for this group of patients.

Population health has come to the forefront as a key driver of value-based care success. Organizations that can deliver population health well are more likely to see the positive outcomes that yield an effective value-based care model.

Topic Discussed: How Are Population Health, Patient Engagement Different?

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