Bridgespan Study Focuses on Imperative to Address Social Needs of Patients as Integral to Improving Their Health Outcomes

07/21/2016 |
BOSTON, MA—July 21, 2016—A new study, “The Community Cure for Health Care,” from The Bridgespan Group examines pioneering health systems that are investing core operating dollars to address the social needs of patients in an effort to improve overall health outcomes, especially in high need communities.
According to one of the study’s authors, Bridgespan Partner Taz Hussein, “We believe that addressing social needs should be the business of health care, so our team wanted to know what we could learn from the few enterprising systems that are attempting to address one or more of their patients’ social needs with core operating dollars, not just relying on government or philanthropic subsidies to do this work.”
The study focused on three health systems: The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), the City’s publicly operated hospital system; Kaiser Permanente (KP) of Southern California, a not-for-profit health plan and provider that serves more than 4 million patients through a network of hospitals and medical offices across the region; and ProMedica, a nonprofit health system based in Toledo, Ohio. Each of the organizations is taking their own approach.
For example, HHC is employing a universal screening for the general patient population on a range of needs such as housing, food insecurity, and interpersonal violence, among others and is partnering with a national nonprofit, Health Leads, to refer patients to outside community resources and social services. KP is targeting a high-need population, defined as the 1% of people that account for 25% of total health care costs or “high utilizers” on the same range of issues for which HHC is screening. “This is who we want to evaluate,” said Artair Rogers, Senior Consultant at KP Southern California, “to see if this approach can really yield a return on investment.” KP is currently partnering with Health Leads and is piloting three initiatives to determine the best models to scale.
ProMedica is pursuing a third approach: universal screening for a single need—in this case hunger and nutrition, and they are pursuing a novel, multi-pronged approach to building their own capacity to address hunger. In addition to partnering with local organizations working on the issue, they are providing food banks at two of their clinical sites that provide patients with healthy food for all household members and they are building a supermarket in the heart of one of the low-income neighborhoods the organization serves. The market will subsidize and strategically place healthy food.
Hussein’s co-author, Bridgespan Consultant Mariah Collins said, “While these organizations’ efforts are still in an early stage and they face many challenges, their experiences to date suggest promising strategies for how health care organizations’ might help patients with some of the social needs that have the greatest impact on health.”
Hussein added, “The health care leaders we talked to understandably have their eyes at least in part on the bottom line, but for all of them, health is the true bottom line. They view themselves as on the front lines of an effort to transform a health care delivery system into a true health system.”
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