Healthcare is recognizing that care cannot occur only within the hospital. In order to move beyond the walls, healthcare must coordinate with other organizations to improve the overall health in the community.
Healthcare has an amazing opportunity to be more than just “sick care.”
Don’t get me wrong. We still need sick care, and we always will.
“Sickness” is related to a variety of factors: improper nutrition, exercise patterns over the years, and a ton of other matters. Sickness can even come as a genetic factor at no fault of the person suffering from the effects.
In order to combat these contributing factors, healthcare must be more proactive.
An Academic Exercise
While getting my master’s degree, I had the chance to study a variety of the components that make up today’s healthcare scene in America. My class project focused on for-profit hospital systems and what could be done to create new business oppotunities.
Short of getting more people sick deliberately, there’s only so much a health system can do.
Yes, it can open more locations and focus on creating more specialized, smaller facilities. New efficiencies create cost-saving opportunities, which can turn into profits if carefully managed.
Still, the whole idea of getting outside of sick care fascinated me.
Since that class, I am seeing health systems expand in some of the ways I wrote about for my project. I’m also seeing and hearing about groups doing even more exciting things.
Stories in the Real World
Because of the podcast, we get the opportunity to talk to a variety of folks in healthcare.
Here are a few encouraging stories of how people are jumping in and figuring it out now.
Approaching Health as a Major Healthcare System
Debra Stevens of Arizona Care Network shared with us the way that the health system is getting ahead of patient needs.
Some of the issues can be resolved with better communication or with better patient management. Other needs are bigger than what a hospital would traditionally solve on its own.
Debra explains that “the primary patients that we’re reaching out to right now are those who need additional assistance outside their doctor’s appointment to achieve their best health.”
The Care Coordination Team
Beyond the medical staff that one might expect at a hospital, Arizona Care Network has a team devoted to care coordination. The team includes RNs, navigators, behavioral health coaches, a population health pharmacist, and social workers.
Here’s the benefit of how an organization as large as Arizona Care Network can deliver care.
Debra told us a story of a patient who had mental health issues and who was also homeless.
Debra said, “The gentleman had been to the office a couple of times, needed to come back for some follow up care. And the doctor said, “He doesn’t have a home. I don’t know where he lives, but here’s where he told me he hangs out.”
“Our social workers, two of them went together to an underpass in the middle of this heat to find this gentleman. They found him, they helped him get access to the services that he’s already entitled to because of his income and his status.
“In investigating all this so that they found him a place to live, they got him back to the doctor’s office, and in the process of the research that they did for him they found he had $20,000 of federal benefits available to him. He didn’t know it. Nobody knew it.”
Uncovering the Health Needs of Nevada
When Suzanne Hendery expressed the vision of Renown Health CEO Dr. Tony Slonim, she said, “Can you imagine if we put hospitals out of business? Wouldn’t that be the most wonderful thing?”
Renown Health drives the Healthy Nevada Project to help residents get genetic testing done so that researchers can help identify statewide health needs. The project is off to a huge start, and it continues to gain steam.
In addition to the genetic testing, Renown Health is “a nonprofit healthcare organization who spends millions of dollars back in community benefit to support over 90 other organizations in the city and across the region to do what they do best, which is health and outreach.”
Through partnering with other organizations, Renown is helping improve behavioral health, supporting community-health workers, and helping food banks provide “low-salt alternatives and things that patients with diabetes can take advantage of in terms of their food.”
Small Organizations Finding Ways to Bridge the Gaps
Dan Dunlop is a passionate advocate of population health matters, and I found him a fascinating source of knowledge on the subject.
He spoke about the BUILD Health Challenge, a grant program where hospitals and community organizations could send in grant applications for some population health projects. This work has resulted in several fascinating efforts.
Here in New Orleans, a new “health mobility” initiative brought together health systems and public transit to ensure patients had a way to get to their appointments. Talk about a fascinating way to move beyond just the clinical experience!
Taking the First Step to Gather Community Leaders
Dan also told the story of a small hospital taking the initiative to invite representatives from several community organizations. These folks all contributed to a blog sponsored by the hospital that directly addressed population health issues.
Someone had to step up to begin that process of getting community leaders. In this case, it was the marketing team at a small hospital.
Health Is Making Strides
Health systems are getting out there and taking chances to improve their communities.
We’re less than 20 episodes in to our show, and these stories have already come up. I can’t wait to hear more of what groups are doing around the country.