The population health management market continues to move toward maturity, according to Bradley Hunter, research director at KLAS Enterprises, in a new report.

Last year, the industry moved from trying population health management tools to using them in improving care practices, he notes. The percentage of providers assuming financial risk for the care of patients remained very small overall across the nation, but that percentage of providers entering these contracts continues to grow.

Consequently, in describing the advances of population health in 2016, “The training wheels are off,” Hunter says.

Bradley Hunter

However, providers interviewed for the report told Hunter and other researchers that a big challenge remains—getting physicians and other clinicians to use population health tools. As in the past, providers confronted with any change in technology often don’t want to use it, and getting them to adopt new tools is difficult.

Also See: 6 Insights on Population Health Management Vendors

However, some physicians are coming around to the promise of population health, particularly when pop health tools are integrated with an electronic health records system, which, when combined with insurance data, enables clinicians to see potential benefits from using population health management tools. That remains a minority of clinicians for now, Hunter says. Most have to be brought along over time and to them, these are just more tools they are being forced to use.

Even clinicians who are ready for pop health tools may find themselves waiting on their electronic health records vendor to be able to accept population health data in the EHR. Only a handful of major vendors and best-of-breed companies are capable of integrating data at this time. Additionally, each version of an EHR vendor’s product has differences that will make integration of outside applications more difficult.

Also See: 7 IT Population Health Components that Bill Spooner says You Need

With providers getting ready for value-based care, KLAS rated pop health vendors for product readiness; in preparing the report, Hunter and colleagues also questioned providers on the capabilities of their technology partners. Vendors ENLI and i2i led in ease of data aggregation. Athenahealth, Optum and Wellcentive got good marks for merging claims and clinical data. The report gives Cerner, ENLI and Wellcentive good marks for overall flexibility and being able to quickly adapt to new requirements.

Information about the report, “Population Health Management 2016,” can be found here.

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