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PHM: An Acronym in Search of Technology

by John Moore | September 22, 2014

genuine“Do We have a PHM Solution for You.”

That seems to be the most heard paraphrase from any number of health IT (HIT) vendors claiming to have what a healthcare organization (HCO) needs to address population health management (PHM). However, much like the person on a street corner in Rome hawking genuine, fake Rolex watches, same can be said for HIT vendors. There is an element of truth and an element of falsehood to their pronouncements.

The truth: Virtually any HIT vendor can claim, to some extent, that they address PHM.

  • EHR vendors make the claim, well because they are EHR vendors. Being at the center of physician workflow, often to a physician’s chagrin, EHR vendors think they are where PHM begins and ends.
  • Analytics vendors have the data from multiple sources, beyond a single EHR so they claim that they are the holders to the keys of PHM for PHM is dead without insights.
  • HIE vendors are the ones that aggregate all that data residing in various EHR data silos across a community so they can proudly proclaim that they are the ones that will deliver PHM nirvana.
  • What is PHM without an engaged patient? Destined to failure? That is what some in the patient engagement vendor realm believe.
  • And then there are the plethora of other niche solutions, addressing care coordination, contract management, clinical quality metrics, even revenue cycle management and the list goes on all claiming to have some rights to solving the PHM woes of an HCO.

And you know what, to some extent each of these classes of vendors is correct. They each, in their own little way, contribute to enabling a PHM strategy. This is great for the vendors for they can all lay claim to this PHM land-grab. Unfortunately, it is not so good for the market and those seeking to enable their PHM strategy as it creates a lot of noise and countless vaporware slide decks.

That is the point:

There is no such thing as a PHM solution – PERIOD!

It simply does not exist and those saying otherwise should be viewed with a deep sense of wariness.

What there is, however, is an organizational capability to effectively and efficiently enable population health management across a given, defined community/population for which an HCO has a financial incentive to manage. It is this capability that we need to focus on, the critical technology pieces that enable this capability and stop thinking there is some magical, single PHM silver bullet that is going to make all this happen.

For these reasons, I have decided that Chilmark Research will not have a research domain that carries the PHM label, though I have toyed with this idea for at least two years now. I even went so far as to shoot one of my analysts down this summer when she wanted to label her IT sector report a PHM report. Rather we compromised on a more truthful title: Analytics for Population Health Management Market Trends report. In a similar vein, our forthcoming market trends report on Clinician Network Management (formerly HIE) will look at how existing HIE vendors and others need to kick it up a notch to look beyond just providing digital data pipes to addressing one of the critical PHM needs, clinician engagement.

Hopefully, others in the industry will also rethink what it means when they talk PHM and begin talking about capabilities and not technologies. Everyone, users, vendors, policy wonks, and even us analysts will be better off for it.



3 responses to “PHM: An Acronym in Search of Technology”

  1. Jim Rose says:

    Good on your John. The more we cut through misused misunderstood vernacular, the better we will all be.

  2. Al Lewis says:

    nice to see some integrity in a field with a whole website devoted to lying. http://www.theysaidwhat.net

    I believe the Dallas hospital that mishandled the Ebola patient had an EMR but somehow missed that the patient had traveled to West Africa, even though he had told people.

    Al Lewis

    Ps Writing this email from Chilmark, MA 🙂

  3. […] (among other tools) that helps lower the cost of care. The risk also stems from the fact that PHM remains an acronym in search of technology; there’s no single package that accomplishes everything a PHM strategy encompasses. It’s good […]

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