How Social Services and Healthcare Are Linked

By Steve Reynolds

“Healthcare is more than doctors and clinics; it’s also social services.” – Steve Reynolds, vice president of Market Management, Government Healthcare Solutions

Your health is about more than how you are feeling. Things like housing, nutrition, community, environment, lifestyle, employment and ability to access healthcare affect your health.

Addressing everything affecting your health requires a holistic picture of your needs. It takes organizing agencies to deliver integrated services, analyze outcomes and continually improve management and delivery processes. Those efforts deliver better health outcomes while controlling costs.

Not All Heart Problems Are Medical

Consider the case from a Medicaid program that Xerox supports in one of the states. A man with developmental challenges regularly experienced chest pain, and he frequently went to the emergency room for treatment. He had a pacemaker, but he didn’t understand how it worked. In addition to his developmental challenges, this man had limited access to specialized medical care.

Using a care management model that Xerox created, this man’s new care plan involves his case manager, healthcare providers, caregivers, family and cardiologist, and it connects him with community support. He did not need to go the ER during the next six months.

Population Health Takes the Holistic Approach

Population Health Management is an expanded view of your health. It considers factors such as your community, your ethnic or socioeconomic group, and the degree to which you are able to access and use healthcare. More than doctors and clinics, healthcare is also social services like housing assistance, employment programs and food security. A Commonwealth Fund issue brief states federal and state policy environments appear favorable for integrating health and social services, starting with Medicaid expansion.

The Affordable Care Act has the potential to improve population health through community grants to prevent chronic disease and foster wellness programs. More than $150 million is available for groups that “deploy a common, comprehensive screening assessment for health-related social needs.”

To be effective, healthcare programs must account for the health of the patient, their family and support group, their social needs and their community. It’s only then that programs can put the resources in place to improve individual and population health outcomes.

2 thoughts on “How Social Services and Healthcare Are Linked

  1. William Kowalski March 17, 2016 - Reply

    So true, health care is more than Doctors and clinics. Studies have shown coordinating social services/supportive services with a person’s medical needs, provides better health, reduced costs and better quality of life. Today’s technology makes that coordination more achievable than ever before. The key is to have policy reflect this paradigm shift and collapse funding sources to make this necessary holistic approach a reality.

    • March 25, 2016 - Reply

      Bill –

      As we discussed this week, a collapse of the funding stream would certainly act as an enabler for a consumer centric, integrated service delivery model. That would be ideal at a local, county, regional, state and national level.
      Absent that occurring any time in the foreseeable future, there are mechanisms that can move the model along given the right leadership and will to find better ways of addressing citizens needs. When I look back on OEL and what was accomplished then, it makes you wonder why progress in the intervening years has been so slow to take hold.
      Now that it seems that forces are aligned in their thinking, we ‘only’ need to get them to work collaboratively – that would include the federal, state, county, local agencies, NFPs, Payers, providers (especially hospitals, ACOs, Medical/Health Homes), etc. Here’s to hoping it takes hold.
      PS – Thanks for bringing up AIRS this week – I have a couple of groups looking at how we can leverage what they do.


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