If you’re a physician, clinician or other health professional, you’ve heard time and again just how important you are to population health. As the most trusted source of health information, you’re essential to winning the hearts and minds of your patients, and changing the way they approach their health.
So, how will that work? Given the expected physician shortage and your practice’s resource constraints, the secret can be found in leveraging community resources to address your patient’s health barriers. Addressing the social determinants of health that your patients live with every day—such as food insecurity, social isolation, and physical inactivity—will augment your treatment plan.
At least that’s what we’re finding at Humana. As a health plan, we’re bringing physicians and community leaders together to overcome barriers to health. Collectively, our goal is bold: to improve the health of the communities we serve 20% by the year 2020 because we make it easy for people to achieve their best health.
We measure our progress through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Healthy Days metric. The survey tool is proven to be an effective assessment of individual and population health by measuring the number of mentally and physically ‘Unhealthy Days’ a person has in a month.
In our latest Bold Goal Progress Report, we showcase how physicians, nonprofits, faith-based groups, and government and business leaders are coming together to create more Healthy Days. Because we’ve learned that no one entity, Humana or your practice, can do this alone. It takes us all and we must be aligned.
Here are three examples of our work that can be scaled to other communities:
· In Broward County, Florida, we partnered with Continucare, Feeding America, and Feeding South Florida to screen for and address food insecurity. We found that 51% of Humana members screened positive, meaning they were food insecure. Those people had more Unhealthy Days and higher utilization of healthcare resources.
· Changing behavioral health requires access to care. In San Antonio there is a shortage of behavioral health professionals, and patients find it takes too long to schedule an appointment, which reduces time for treatment. We’ve begun to deploy telepsychiatry capabilities in some primary care physician practices, which improves access and reduces time to treat.
· Our work is not just limited to behavioral health and food insecurity. In New Orleans, in partnership with JenCare, we engage physicians and clinicians to prescribe patients exercise. Patients work with a care manager and a registered nurse, who access available exercise benefits and assist in coordinating exercise at Silver Sneakers locations.
As a physician, you’re the trusted advisor when it comes to your patient’s health, but we’re learning that much of what makes and keeps your patient healthy is impacted by situations outside of the clinical setting.
For example, take a Medicare Advantage senior who lives with diabetes on a fixed income and has little to no discretionary income. It’s disingenuous to ask her to take her medications if she has to choose between spending her limited money on food for her family or diabetes medicine.
To achieve population health, health plans, community groups and others must surround you and your practice with outreach programs and services to address the areas where you don’t have the resources to help. By embracing a broader view of care delivery—one focused on prevention, promoting wellness and addressing the holistic needs of patients—we can begin shaping communities that enable people to achieve their best health.
Roy A. Beveridge, MD, is chief medical officer, Humana, and an editorial advisor for Managed Healthcare Executive.