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Developing Population Health Partnerships

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Could Population Health Partnerships deliver better working relationships between industry and public health systems?


Public health systems and life-sciences industries serve a common purpose: to improve population and patient health and wellbeing. Industry has significant skills and resources that could be utilised more effectively by health systems, and the health systems offer a unique opportunity to develop and test new products and services.

This is not a new insight. As a leader in the NHS I was involved in many initiatives that encouraged and promoted greater collaboration between the sectors from the implementation of national policies to establishing joint research and service redesign projects. Yet despite these attempts to build more effective collaborations there always remained a gap between understanding the importance of the opportunity and actually delivering improvements on the ground.

Globally many health systems are now making value-based care a priority having recognised they can no longer sustain a fee-for-service model alone and need to reward providers to improve quality, intervene earlier and reduce cost. Many are now investing in population health management functions to enable their strategies. However, most health systems will lack the full capabilities required and focusing on effective partnerships with industry could unlock the synergistic benefits of combining the best of what each sector has to offer.



Building a Population Health Partnership


Population health brings together a deep understanding of population need, gathering data and insights across multiple care groupings and service settings, developing new health and care delivery models and more effectively engaging patients and consumers. Providers proactively manage care for defined populations—from preventive and maintenance care to acute and long-term care.

It will be critical for health systems to lead the development of any partnership – setting out a clear strategy, understanding what they require and defining deliverables so that industry can effectively engage and respond. Our proposition (Figure 1) identifies 3 key and differentiated capabilities that the life science industry could bring to a population health partnership:


  1. Global data and population insights

Life sciences industries bring with them capabilities in advanced data analytics and informatics which will be key to developing effective, robust risk stratification methodologies, and for monitoring the health of population segments over time. They also bring real world evidence that informs decision-making in response to population need and helps measure the impact of interventions and outcomes for patients. Industry is also building machine learning and cognitive analytics capabilities which will provide additional insights and accelerate the implementation of population health management.


2. Consumer and patient activation

Industry has rich and in-depth consumer insight capabilities. For patients to buy and use their products they must have a deep understanding of their experience of their condition – what the individual patient values and needs, their attitudes and behaviours, and what is most likely to improve their health outcomes.


3. Market knowledge and best practice solutions

Life Science companies often have global reach and presence. They know from commercial experience how different health and care models and markets operate and the solutions that work and don’t work. They are well positioned to provide strategic thinking and advise on cost saving initiatives as well as deliver much needed change management capacity.

Figure 1. The key capabilities for a population health partnership. ©Visions4health


Actions to develop Population Health Partnerships


I know from experience that a recognition of capability and possibility alone will not generate effective partnership working. A change in mind-sets from both sectors will be critical. Appropriate financial incentives, robust joint governance and performance metrics shouldn’t be under-estimated. It also requires targeted investment in technology and in joint teams to develop new skills and gain experience from each other.


In summary


Bringing together health system and life-sciences capabilities into new partnerships jointly focused on implementing population health strategies has huge potential to leverage improvement and deliver patient benefits in a way that has never been done before.

This initiative may help all parties to gain a better understanding of their sectors, develop confidence in each other, which over time will improve trust, and change the way they think about each other thereby create mature partnerships.


Published in the World Health Journal –

Conor Burke

Conor Burke

Strategic Advisor, Visions4Health

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