More than half of healthcare managers surveyed expected to recoup their investments in population health management programs within three to four years, according to KPMG, the U.S. audit, tax, and advisory firm.

“Our clients see benefits from population health management programs as a part of the solution to reduce avoidable medical costs and variability in care,” said West Johnson, a KPMG advisory partner who heads provider transformation. “Preventive care is given a big priority in these programs, since they deliver improvements in efficient and effective care with a high degree of patient engagement.”

According to KPMG’s online survey, 20 percent believe that investments in healthcare information technology and data and analytic tools will pay off in one to two years. Another 36 percent indicated that the payback period for these investments could take up to three or four years, showing a majority expect to recoup their costs within this time frame. The survey showed that 29 percent see the investment in population health paying off in five or more years. Only 14 percent see them not recouping their costs at all.

The growth in the number of accountable care type models, value-based contracts and other reimbursement mechanisms is driving much of this emphasis toward population health, said Joe Kuehn, a KPMG partner with the healthcare advisory practice.

More than a third of the survey’s respondents (36 percent) said the biggest clinical benefit derived from population health management will come from preventive care. Developing evidenced-based clinical protocols to improve the efficiency of care was the second biggest response (23 percent) among the healthcare managers and executives surveyed, followed by managing chronic diseases (21 percent).

Costs are seen as the biggest challenge in implementing population health management programs among 42 percent of those surveyed. Getting staff and physicians comfortable with the approach behind population health program was the second largest challenge (25 percent), followed by interoperability with other providers (19 percent) and coming to terms with new payer relationships (14 percent). Regarding population health and its impact on meaningful use, respondents (42 percent) found that the investments in time, resources and money supported both efforts. Only 13 percent describe meaningful use as an “impediment or distraction” regarding population health efforts.

The survey took place during a KPMG webcast in November exploring new payment and delivery models through technology.

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