A health risk assessment (HRA) is not just a snapshot of your population’s current health status—it also can tell you the trajectory of your population’s health in the future. Population health professionals will use HRA data to gather critical insights as they design wellness initiatives to improve health outcomes. And programs are most effective when you understand what data is available at your fingertips.
Analyzing HRA Data for Actionable Insights
With population-level health data at your fingertips, it’s easy to end up in a deep dive, slicing and splicing your dataset to understand small segments of your population in a variety of ways.
But in the beginning, you should always start by looking at the big picture.
What does your HRA data tell you about your population as a whole? Here are 5 top-level considerations as you begin analyzing HRA data to better understand your population:
You can’t do anything to change demographic risk factors such as race/ethnicity, sex, and age, but you should look at these factors in combination with the other characteristics below to measure the risk for future health problems. One example: individuals older than 45 are considered at increased risk of heart disease. When combined with a disease such as diabetes or an unhealthy habit such as a sedentary lifestyle, the risk of developing heart disease is even higher.
Social Determinants of Health
Social determinants of health (SDoH) consider the economic and social conditions that that influence an individual’s health—things like a person’s income, their working conditions, or if they have access to healthy, affordable food. Analyzing SDoH data can reveal inequities in access to housing or healthcare services. If the HRA gives you the option of asking about education level and zip code, do it. These key demographics allow you to look at SDoH that research has found essential for population health efforts.
It's useful to know the current health of your population. What percentage of your population is obese, has diabetes, or suffers from cardiovascular disease? Does your population generally have normal blood pressure or HDL cholesterol levels? These and other health conditions increase healthcare costs, decrease quality of life and productivity, and increase the risk of early death. Consider the top health conditions and the percentage of the population with each condition. Look, too, at the overall wellness and calculated risk for future disease for individuals.
Population health moves beyond managing current health conditions to looking at prevention. Look at the data around current health habits such as meeting the recommended daily intake of foods, sitting hours, social support, and staying current with exams and vaccinations —as these all have an effect on future health outcomes.
Knowing an individual’s health risks—and the habits that contribute to health risk—is important, and so is knowing your population’s readiness to change those habits that can lead to future chronic disease. A high-quality HRA will gather information on how ready your population is to make changes for healthier habits. Wellsource HRAs, for example, allow population health professionals to pull a report on individuals who have unhealthy lifestyle habits (such as smoking) but have indicated they’re ready to make a change in the future. Assessing readiness should be a critical component of your analysis as it enables you to allocate intervention dollars where they will be most effective.
Making HRA Data Analysis Accessible to Your Entire Team
This kind of analysis is designed to help population health professionals craft meaningful wellness programs that improve health outcomes in your population. And an HRA is a vital tool in this pursuit.
A high-quality HRA can collect data that may reveal, for example, that:
- Employees from a particular corporate population are motivated to become more active and lose weight.
- A segment of your Medicaid population is eating primarily from vending machines and corner minute marts.
- Many within your Medicare population feel lonely (which might not be too surprising during these times of coronavirus social distancing).
You don’t need statistical software and a degree in data analysis to learn from HRA data (although we can’t imagine those things would hurt!). Your HRA should have built-in reporting that provides a compact, aggregate way to view your data. For example, Wellsource HRAs have 20 built-in reports, including reports for overall population metrics, change readiness, demographics wellness scores. But your ability to analyze the data doesn’t stop there, as Wellsource clients are also able to build customizable reports and even access the raw data.
Learn more about the value of HRA data, and how HRA reporting can give unique insights into your population.