Erin Hafer, MPH, director, New Programs Integration and Network Development, Community Health Plan of Washington (CHPW)
Hafer has extensive experience working with managed care and delivery systems in integrating healthcare reform opportunities through strategic planning, product development, payment model innovation, and legislative advocacy. She partners closely with federal and state agencies and community partners on healthcare transformation activities. Hafer has developed models to improve access to care for individuals with complex conditions, such mental health and substance use disorders. One such model includes the innovative Mental Health Integration Program (MHIP), which embeds mental health professionals in the primary care delivery system. MHIP outcomes include decreasing inpatient admissions, lowering arrest rates for patients receiving services, reducing the average time to improve clinical depression symptoms by half; and saving the hospital more than $11.2 million during the initial 14 months of statewide MHIP implementation, a net savings of $66 per member per month.
MHE: Why did you choose your profession?
Hafer: I am driven by a commitment to social justice and equity. After starting my career in community organizing with migrant farmworkers and political organizing, I worked in healthcare advocacy. Given my desire to affect change at the health systems’ level and improve population health strategies, the next natural step was to pursue my master’s degree in public health. I was drawn to CHPW due to its mission as a not-for-profit health plan, governed by federally qualified community health centers. In my 11 years at CHPW, I’ve been fortunate to work in several different business areas including public policy, product development, strategy and analytics, and network development. These experiences allowed me to focus on both operational implementation and health systems innovations.
MHE: What has been your biggest learning experience?
Hafer: Working in product development and health system innovation can be challenging, especially in an ever-changing environment. There is often tension between operational performance and innovation. Building a sustainable culture for innovation requires dedicated resources and an intentional focus on innovation as an organizational goal.
MHE: What change would you like to see in healthcare in the next 10 years?
Hafer: I would like to see better integration of physical and behavioral healthcare regardless of the care setting and a stronger incorporation of social determinants of health such as housing status, income, education, and ethnicity/race. While there is general acknowledgment of the role that behavioral health and social determinants of health play in health outcomes, there are still many limitations in how healthcare dollars can be used to address these issues. Through better incorporation of the social determinants of health, we will be better positioned to improve not only individual and population health, but also health equity.
MHE: If you could sit down to dinner with anyone involved in healthcare, who would it be?
Hafer: Having experienced the implementation of the ACA, including Medicaid expansion firsthand, I have seen the benefits of improved access to health coverage. I would love to hear Former President Barack Obama’s reflections on the challenges in passing the ACA and what he feels has worked well and what could be improved.