“There is a lot of talk but not a lot of action,” says Rich Williams, Principal of DFW-based Advanced Plan for Health, a nine-year-old population health management enterprise.

Nurse Drawing Leadership ChartHospitals, at least the ones that know that population health management will be one of the biggest game-changers in the last 84 years, are talking, talking, and talking and meeting, meeting, and meeting, but only about 50 out of 500 healthcare organizations in the US are moving in a meaningful way to create a system that will propel them to leadership in their marketplace, Williams believes.

Hospitals need to take the lead on this critical issue now or run the risk inside 10 years of  being nothing more than a commoditized subservient provider whose business will exist only on the basis of cost and quality.

Life Flight, the nation’s second hospital-based helicopter ambulance system, was a game-changer for Houston’s Hermann Hospital, now the flagship of the Memorial Hermann Health System.  Hermann was first to provide a helicopter ambulance system in the hyper competitive Houston market in 1976, and today it dominates the shock-trauma care market in the nation’s fourth largest city.  Williams believes health systems and hospitals that are first in the market with a credible population health management system will enjoy the same market changing results as Hermann. 

The population health strategy, he believes, will have the same effect on healthcare as Dallas‘ Baylor Medical Center when, in 1929, it offered teachers the first health insurance plan.  That was a big deal with incredible implications, Williams believes, but the hospitals who get out in front with an effective program, will have a bigger impact on their communities as well as the financial viability of the future healthcare business model.

Williams’ company provides turnkey solutions for hospitals and other provider organizations who see the strategic value in leading in this business.  Every hospital generates reams of claims data.  To most people, it’s useless.  To the people at APH, it’s gold because they have the technology, information and experience to turn that data into something truly useful – a customized health management system.  Moreover, there is something they’ve learned along the way: data saves lives.  

There are other provider companies as well as insurance giants like Aetna that are working to capture this market.  The tell of the tale will be who achieves dominance in a given market first – the health system/hospital or the insurance corporation.   

As I was thinking about this I realized that there are great leaders and there are good executives.  The great leaders are the risk-takers who get this concept and who have the ability to bring to the table their team, physicians and other partner-providers and convince them that their vision is the way – perhaps the only way – to a successful future.  That is no easy sell.  It is fraught with risks.  However, the real leaders are the ones who know that the future for healthcare will be loaded with risks.  They will run to the fight, to borrow a popular expression among Marines.  

The way healthcare transformation will play out, a good executive will one day wish he or she had also been a good leader.