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Embracing Innovation in Healthcare to Transform Delivery of Care

Jaime Rosenberg
During a session at AcademyHealth National Health Policy Conference held February 4-5 in Washington, DC, healthcare stakeholders discussed 3 innovations that are changing the way we think about healthcare: social determinants of health, digital health, and data.
While the advent of new treatments, such as immunotherapy and targeted therapy in cancer, has brought systematic change to patient care, there are also innovations outside of medicine that are leading the charge in transforming healthcare. During a session at AcademyHealth National Health Policy Conference held February 4-5 in Washington, DC, healthcare stakeholders discussed 3 innovations that are changing the way we think about healthcare: social determinants of health, digital health, and data.

When you look at the root causes of health, you have to look at social determinants, which set the stage for a patient’s well-being, explained Bechara Choucair, senior vice president and chief community health officer, Kaiser Permanente.

“As health systems, how do we start thinking about our patients’ and our members’ social needs? Whether it’s housing, whether it’s food insecurity, transportation, or economic opportunity, or social isolation,” he said. “How do we think about those needs, how do we screen for those needs, how do we predict those needs, and how do we build solutions to support our members’ needs?”

Zoning in on housing, in particular, Bechara explained: “It’s not fair to expect patients to live healthy lives if they don’t have a stable, safe roof over their head.”

People who are homeless live, on average, 27 years less than those who are housed, according to Bechara. They are also at a much higher risk for readmissions, have hospital stays 2 to 3 days longer than those who are housed, and have an increased risk of infectious disease, chronic disease, addiction, and mental health.

To address this, last May, Kaiser Permanente announced a $200 million impact investment to improve housing instability and homelessness. In January, it announced 3 initiatives being taken through this investment, including investing in a multiunit building to preserve and expand affordable housing, anchoring an $100 million loan fund to protect affordable housing across the healthcare system, and identifying 515 people older than 50 years with at least 1 chronic condition in Oakland in an effort to get them housed.

According to Bechara, stakeholders should take a few more steps upstream and think about the policies, the systems, and the environmental changes that are needed to transform the healthcare system to effectively address these needs. To do this, and do it right, there’s a role for federal and state governments, as well as for cities, counties, and local governments.


 
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