Suggested Timelines when Preparing to Implement a Population Health System

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Co-authored by Suzanne Kunze, RN, CCM, MBA and John Miller


Health plans tend to keep their care management systems for a long time. When it’s time to replace the system, many health plans struggle with the best way to make the transition to a new platform.

As we described in our first blog, there are some best practices you can follow when implementing a new population health system.

The transformation begins

In this blog, we’ll provide you with a timeline on how to communicate the transformation to the organization and the things that need to be done from a technical perspective before the implementation begins.

As the Proof of Concept is being finalized with the health plan, the C-suite/executive leaders should already be aware of the changes — at least 12 months in advance. The earlier this can be communicated, the better it will be at getting everyone to adopt to the change.

  • Six months before implementation, begin communicating to managers
  • Three-to-six months prior to the implementation, communicate to all employees who will be affected by the change
  • Some organizations wait until it’s too late to involve employees. Employee input is the most important thing they can capture. Getting Ambassadors engaged when training starts is really too late in the process for them to be effective. Organizations must remember that end users are important to the implementation’s success. Gathering user input and feedback can be the best money an organization spends

Why not have a project naming contest to engage staff? Naming the project, gets staff involved, and gives them a sense of ownership early on. One organization we worked with recently, decided on a Transformers movie theme, provided T-shirts, a welcome letter from the CEO (which outlined the transformation process, and more information about each of the vendors). There were stories by vendors, sharing with employees why it’s a privilege to be working on the project. 

And make sure you aren’t carrying over things to the new system that you disliked in the previous system. There’s nothing worse than implementing a new system and finding out later that the things you didn’t like in the previous system are still there in the new system.

Share the pain points of the existing system with the new vendor. Reducing pain points is a goal that the new care management platform should address. Remember, this is an opportunity for change and improving previous processes and procedures.

The new population health system

Develop a thorough and workable customized (not cookie cutter) approach - The health plan has selected its population health system to meet the business requirements of its programs. Now, develop a list of what makes your organization’s programs unique and what should be brought forward in the new system. Also, determine the goals for implementing the new platform. Have this ready to present to the project team at the implementation kick-off meeting.

We know that organizations don’t change care management systems regularly, so when they do, they need a partner who understands the complexities and uniqueness of their project. At HighPoint, we’re doing this with all of our clients who are transitioning, or are considering moving, to a new population health system.

Identify project risks – It’s a good idea to know the risks up front. Examples of some risks include: changes in senior leadership; will the objectives still be valued by the new leaders? A regulatory or accreditation (i.e., the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, NCQA, or URAC) review is scheduled during the project timeline, competing with resources assigned to the project. Both situations pose risks for the project. Other risks include business process changes, organizational changes, and lack of internal resources (e.g., training).

Perform an analysis of business processes and redesign for optimal efficiencies - Document the current processes. You need to know the complete list of processes that will be built in the new system and what’s expected to meet the business strategies and objectives. Documenting the current processes with end user input, will help you identify those processes that are not currently working, and will prevent you from transferring inefficient processes into the new system. The end user can provide valuable input into the design of more efficient and effective processes in the new system.

Remember the end user

It’s also more cost-effective to bring end users into the process early-on, rather than later in the game, so the organization can capture their input and make the system effective. Typically, this level of user involvement is something that needs to be driven by the C-suite and throughout the organization. 

In our next blog, we’ll explain what things must be done simultaneously during the implementation process.


Co-author Suzanne Kunze is an associate director with HighPoint's Population Health Management practice. Co-author John Miller is a senior manager with HighPoint.

Tags: healthcare, CMS, population health, URAC, automation, care management, NCQA, population health system, care management system

  

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