Banner Health's big bet on population health

Phoenix-based Banner Health is making a big bet on population health as it aims to use data to improve patient outcomes and cut costs.

The health system has partnered with health cloud company Innovaccer to improve its data analytics and care coordination capabilities. It's been helping identify care gaps among patients from its value-based care division, which includes about 1.4 million patients from Arizona and Colorado, Banner Health officials told Becker's.

"It's saying to the providers, 'Hey, it looks like Jen hasn't had her annual mammogram. The last one she did was back in 2019. You need to talk to her about it,'" said Jen Brooks, vice president of population health, value-based care and the administrative services organization at Banner Health. "And this allows the provider to then prompt the patient to close those gaps."

Banner Health is an Oracle Cerner shop, but not all of its network providers use the EHR vendor. So it needed a solution that could scale across its entire insurance division, which includes its joint venture with Aetna. After selecting Innovaccer, the health system expanded its care coordination program from about 50 offices to more than 200.

With the EHR-agnostic platform, care reminders pop up on the EHR for providers to see. Banner Health also plans to implement a tool where chronic-disease care coordinators can communicate with primary care providers through the EHR.

"Ensuring that that whole care team is really working together, and that we know what's going on with that member when we're interacting with them, is extremely important," Ms. Brooks said. "It's probably one of the biggest problems in healthcare."

Banner is focusing on value-based care patients for now but may eventually consider a broader cloud migration, Ms. Brooks said. But the health system is seeing results from the initial cloud shift. Early stats show about an 18 percent care-gap closure among providers using the in-office workflow tool, she said.

"Traditionally, in the healthcare setting, we've been really good at understanding what's happening at the time you come and talk to me. But it's a little hard for me to know what you're doing when you're not in front of me in my office," she said. "And this platform is allowing us to start to see, know and understand that better. If you're just relying on the patient to tell you everything that they've done outside of visiting you, you're going to get an incomplete picture."

This system automates data that Banner Health used to have to input and crunch manually via comma-separated value files, Microsoft Excel and pivot tables, said Greg Sanderson, senior director of population health management at Banner Health. The health system can now identify graphical trends over a number of years.

"There's a visualization that's presented that, quote-unquote, 'tells a story.' Whereas before, if all you have is rows and columns of numbers, it's exceedingly difficult to get that total picture," Mr. Sanderson said. "And you can click on those outliers to say, 'Maybe I need to start to drill down a little bit deeper to see if I can figure out what's causing that?' Or, 'Do I need to engage more with a specific provider or group to try to see what we can do to make a better positive change with those numbers?'"

For Banner Health, the next step is to speed up this type of data so it's available in real time.

"The faster we can get information and exchange it, the faster the business can adapt and move," Ms. Brooks said. "And that's probably one of our biggest barriers. It's still kind of the state of the space for healthcare IT in general."

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