Health Systems Embracing the Data Driven Era

Catherine Oliveros, Vice President, Community Health Improvement, Texas Health Resources

1. What are the current market trends you see shaping the community health Space?

We are going from sick care to preventive care, which moves us into community settings and working with larger populations. This means we must think differently about what we offer our consumers and we need to adopt innovative approaches that will get us outside our hospital walls. Technology allows for innovative approaches to access and delivery of services; however, the challenge will be to strike a balance so that we don’t lose the personal touch. Many in our community are socially isolated and technology can facilitate and address social isolation. As we consider how to effectively work in communities leveraging technology, we must strive for a balance because we know that for optimal health we must address physical, social, and spiritual needs.

2. Hospitals and care systems increasingly are expanding their scope to focus on population health management as a tool to improve the health of their patients and surrounding communities. The ultimate goal of population health management is to promote the overall health of a given population while also reducing health disparities by integrating public health principles into health care delivery. What kind of transition do you expect community health space making in the year 2019 and beyond?

Health systems are moving towards data-driven cross-sector collaborations and place-based initiatives to promote overall health, reduce disparities, and address social determinants of health. More and more hospitals are recognizing the role the industry can play by joining forces with other sectors to ensure a comprehensive approach to community health and population management. We regularly see the data – people in our hospitals who are food insecure, homeless, living in subpar housing – and how these patients struggle to manage their health and live healthy lives. It’s not because they don’t want to, but because they don’t have the same access, opportunity, or resources. Now we are asking the questions and identifying solutions that will make a difference.

3. Please elaborate on the challenges that the organizations will need to address related to community health space.

Funding: Hospital philanthropy historically has been about bricks and mortar. Building a robust community health improvement strategy and in turn finding funding to sustain effective models means we must change how we communicate with funders, diversify our funder base and approach philanthropy more broadly e.g. not limit ourselves to clinical or medical investments, but pursue funding for social determinants of health.

Collaboration: To be impactful, collaboration is key and cross-sector collaboration is imperative. This means moving to a collective impact model where diverse and competing organizations, in some cases, must come together with a shared vision and dedicated resources to move the needle. Again, we must learn to speak one language and become nimbler in our processes to accommodate new approaches that result from innovation and collaboration.

Data: Availability of data is limited and often delayed (two to three years behind). Reporting systems don’t talk to each other (e.g. hospitals, providers, payors, and community-based organizations). Data sharing is difficult to embrace and often difficult to implement due to resistance, cost,infrastructure, etc).

4. Myriad factors are driving hospitals and care systems to address the nonmedical determinants of population health. Most notably, the Affordable Care Act implicitly and explicitly promotes a population health management approach to care delivery. Your views on this predicament.

We don’t see this as a predicament, but rather an opportunity to play a role in upstream issues that impact health. Siloed efforts have limited success. If we are really going to transform healthcare, we must transform communities. This does not mean that as a health system we become experts in housing, education, transportation. What it does mean is that we recognize the connection points, we become part of the conversation, and we join collaborative efforts that ensure full continuum support and facilitate access to health and social services. Our immediate goal may be healthy individuals, but the long-term goal is healthy communities. Healthy communities are the result of a culture shift – different sectors coming together with a shared purpose and working towards making healthy choices the easy choices for everyone, regardless of where they live, work, play, and play.

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