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How can the whole health system treat the whole person?

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Now more than ever, disparities and fragmentation across the health system are often resulting in lack of access to the right care. Additionally, it is estimated that 80% of an individual's health is determined outside of a care facility*. As a result, it's necessary to consider elements beyond medical care that impact health to understand the specific needs of each person. 

By aligning individual care preferences with mental and behavioral solutions — while also understanding socioeconomic and environmental factors — it's possible to provide seamless comprehensive experiences that place people at the center of their care and fundamentally drive better health for everyone.

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  • Graphic of five concentric circles representing whole-person health with a person in the center. Rotating clockwise, the first circle lists genetics and biology, the second circle lists behavioral and mental health, the third lists socioeconomic factors, the fourth lists pharmacy and the fifth lists physical environment.
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Envisioning how it all comes together

Addressing gaps in care through the convergence of data sharing, emerging technology and a deeper focus on community outreach leads us to uncover solutions that improve a person’s whole health and well-being.

One example is our continued focus on better understanding the interplay between social determinants of health (SDOH) data and health outcomes. Traditionally, health system constituents have relied on their own data. However, layering de-identified data from beyond their walls paints a more complete picture of patient populations and helps organizations know where and how to invest resources to keep people healthy. Combining data with artificial intelligence-enabled analytics and tools can help drive a more comprehensive approach to care when its needed most.

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Infographic of data streams inside and outside the walls of health care organizations shows how connecting these sources provides a more complete picture of an individual’s health. Connecting housing, transportation, access to food and zip code data to clinical information about behavioral health, medical illnesses, use of care and conditions drives care improvements across the health care system.

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Another example is when medical care, public health and social support systems work in harmony to drastically improve outcomes. We’re working diligently to elevate the conversation around inequities by expanding COVID-19 testing access and coordination in underserved communities and it has proved paramount to ensuring everyone has a fair opportunity to be as healthy as possible.

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Whole-person care in action

By focusing on the complete picture in health care, combined with innovations in telemedicine, digital applications and care coordination, we aim to deliver comprehensive care with the whole individual in mind.

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Collaborate with a patient-centric approach — Benevera Health

Ali Demma, RN Care Manager:

What we do is so important to close that link between the patient and all of their providers. Not everybody can find nursing, social work, pharmacy all in one location like with Benevera Health.

I’m an RN care manager and we get people set up with different kinds of doctors, we get them set up with transportation, any kind of community resources. Recently I was working with a patient — he first came across my registry because he was an inpatient hospital stay. Our registries that are produced every week come from Optum. He had been hospitalized for some cardiac issues, he was diabetic, his blood pressure was really not controlled. He had some urinary issues and ended up getting discharged with a Foley catheter.

I went to his home and helped him with the process of checking his blood sugars, got him set up with home health care which provided him the tools to take care of his catheter at home. I got him involved with a cardiologist through the hospital that he had been at. Now he’s to the point that he is well-regulated: checking his blood sugars, he gives himself insulin twice a day, his blood pressure is now stable, he’s maintaining the catheter at home by himself.

A few weeks into me working with him it came up that he had recent guardianship over his 15 year old grandson, so that’s when I got Amy involved.

 

Amy Brandreth, Social Worker:

He was living in a place which he couldn’t afford, it also wasn’t conducive to an elderly gentleman and he really did need to move to elderly housing. So we just worked to make sure he was able to get an exception so his grandson could stay with him. One of the other things that we helped him with was his grandson had no insurance so we helped him with the application process to get his grandson covered by Medicaid. Ali used Optum to refer the patient to me. It does help with the collaboration because we can go in to a patient’s chart and see exactly what’s been going on with the patient, what the other parties have been working on, before we do any initial outreach which is really helpful.

Ali Demma, RN Care Manager:

We would set goals by week, like to lower his A1C, maintain the patency of his catheter, or having his blood sugars between a certain range. All of our goals are all set through Optum, so we got him pretty stable to the point that he’s taking care of everything by himself now.

Without Optum, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. We can see the whole picture with the patient, from demographic information, to medications, to their other care teams outside of Benevera Health so it really helps us to care coordinate everything with that patient.

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Proactively managing patient care

Care coordination technology is an Optum offering that combines actionable insights with an individual’s health history to drive collaboration between care teams and treat the whole person. See how Benevera Health leverages this offering to meet the personalized needs of a diabetic grandfather, while also helping reduce ER admission rates for its patient population.

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Designing a better member experience

With pharmacy being the biggest touch point in health care, OptumRx prioritized its member experience and evolved it to consider the whole person — creating better outcomes, lowering costs and improving the overall health care system.

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Improving access to behavioral health care

Optimizing whole-person health requires integrating innovative behavioral health solutions that address traditional gaps in care. We focus on technology that delivers better outcomes, an improved member experience and lower costs.

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“Whole-person care takes into account a patient’s mental, behavioral, spiritual and physical health while recognizing that each of us is an individual, with our own goals and our own preferences for seeking care at different places in our health care journey. When we address all of these factors, that’s when we can deliver on the promise of whole-person care.”

                Wyatt Decker, MD
                CEO, OptumHealth

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*Magnan, S. 2017. Social Determinants of Health 101 for Health Care: Five Plus Five. NAM Perspectives. Discussion Paper, National Academy of Medicine, Washington, DC. https://doi.org/10.31478/201710c

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Health care is waking up to a new digital experience

The vision to provide health care remotely was noted as early as 1879. Like the telephone itself, over 140 years later “telehealth” advanced — and just in time.

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