Breaking Down Barriers to Improve Health Outcomes

It’s no secret that U.S. healthcare spending is through the roof. We continue to hear alarming stats on how the U.S. currently spends twice as much on healthcare than ten other high-income countries. We continue to analyze why we’re not seeing better outcomes with all of the money being poured into the healthcare system. People blame these higher costs and undesirable outcomes to poor American diets, inefficient healthcare delivery systems, overpriced pharmaceuticals and unit costs. However, little attention seems to be given to things outside of the stereotypical healthcare experience, like limited access to healthy food options, lack of education, financial hardships or unsafe neighborhoods. These environmental, social and economic factors, also known as social determinants of health, can greatly impact an individual’s health, yet historically our healthcare system has not specifically focused on them.

Understanding the social determinants of health and why they matter.
Everyone deserves an opportunity to make choices that lead to good health. But in order for this to truly become a reality, advances are needed not only in healthcare delivery and technology but also in education, childcare, housing, community planning, business, transportation – just to name a few.

 According to Healthy People 2020, there are five key areas of social determinants of health:

  • Neighborhood & built environment – access to safe housing, parks and playgrounds

  • Health & healthcare – access to health coverage and quality care

  • Social & community context – support systems, discrimination and stress

  • Education – literacy, language, access to quality education and vocational training

  • Economic stability – employment, medical bills and income

These areas have the potential to greatly affect an individual’s health. In fact, social and environmental factors impact the risk of premature death by 20 percent, while genetics has a 30 percent impact. Health disparities also pose great financial risk and account for a whopping $102 billion in direct medical costs in the U.S. each year.

How to break down barriers to promote good health for all.
It’s clear that a traditional population health management (PHM) program simply won’t cut it anymore. Every person is unique and so is their health journey. An effective PHM strategy should be designed to be flexible enough to adjust care for someone who has limited access to public transportation, is unsure of their ability to afford healthy food options or is dealing with economic and family hardships. At Maestro Health™, we believe the entire PHM strategy must be redefined. That’s why our HEALTHY(me)™ program takes a holistic approach to address a person’s physical, financial and emotional wellbeing.

This holistic approach allows us to meet the person where they are on their healthcare journey and understand what “healthy” looks like to them. For some it may be hitting 10,000 steps on their Fitbit, while others would like to see a decrease in their A1C levels.

However, it must go beyond identifying personal health goals. We believe an effective PHM strategy must dig deeper to understand the barriers they are facing in their everyday lives that are preventing them from finding their healthy. For instance, if lack of public transportation has historically been a problem, then a personalized care plan should include something as simple as arranging a ride to a doctor’s visit.  

Take it one step further and apply technology to expand your data set. Utilize this robust data to derive additional insights to further identify and address an individual’s specific needs. According to PwC, 78 percent of providers stated that they are unable to identify their patients’ social needs due to a lack of data insight. Our HEALTHY(me) program provides nurse care coordinators access to a person’s personal and healthcare profile, in an effort to close gaps in care and assist providers in addressing their patient’s specific needs.

A PHM strategy that does not consider the social determinants of health, does not consider a person’s overall wellbeing. You can learn how we’re integrating this approach with our self-funded solution to help simplify experiences, improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs at GameChangerHR.com.