Whole person care is the ideal model to attain health equity across populations, though current quality metrics are not aligned to the wholistic health compass. Despite decades of research and successful outcomes, Integrated care’s domains of physical and behavioral health continue to remain remain siloed. While the social determinants of health and mental health (SDoH and MH) dramatically impact health and behavioral health outcomes across every practice setting, they are inconsistently factored into national quality models.
What Comprise the WHEDs
Systemic racism, historical, developmental, and event traumas are also well recognized in the literature as correlates of health disparities. The Political Determinants of Health (PDoH) add their fury to the fire by fueling worsening clinical outcomes as a person’s social position decreases. Yet despite these facts, the US health system lacks a unified health equity vision that consistently includes assessment of these fundamental constructs. Add systemic racism, and the PDoH to the SDoH and SDoMH, and we gain a comprehensive lens for addressing health disparities: wholistic health equity determinants (WHED).
The WHED contribute to poor clinical outcomes and fiscal losses across each touchpoint of care though increased chronic illness severity, morbidity, mortality for every life stage. Vast differences appear across rural and urban regions. Safety-net hospitals have profoundly higher hospitalization utilization rates for length of stay, intensity of treatments, and costs, including readmission rates and associated penalties.
ACEs, historical, developmental, and other event traumas increase onset and exacerbation of chronic respiratory illnesses, diabetes, obesity, and mortality. Members of the LGBTQIA++ population are at higher risk than other groups of developing severe mental illness, and for experiencing an exacerbation or new onset of mental illness. Reasons for these disparities include the community’s chronic exposure to implicit bias, discrimination, and racism, as well as increased social isolation and exposure to interpersonal violence.
Given the realities addressed above, anything less than a vantage focused on the WHEDs is short-sighted. This limited gaze will not enhance quality of care for the rising number of vulnerable and disenfranchised populations across the globe.
Mandate for Action
National health expenditures now exceed $4.3 Trillion annually and will further rise. I can hear some of you muttering how this number is related to the pandemic only. Here’s food for thought: pre-pandemic these numbers had already topped over $3.8 Trillion related to chronic illness exacerbation and the SDoH. The incidence of these factors has only intensified and escalated from the pandemic.
In response to this growing price tag the industry has evolved a fresh generation of quality frameworks, metrics, and models to forge a more comprehensive health equity vista. However, all of these efforts fall short of that goal. Every organization and entity still uses different metrics to measure and benchmark their actions. The actions of NCQA, the National Quality Forum, and CMS (through their Health Equity Pillar) are not for naught. Yet, there remains no viable, formal roadmap adopted to align cross-sector efforts and steer a successful course toward wholistic health equity; at least not until now.
Advancing the Wholistic Health Equity Quality Roadmap©
Imagine an 8-step color-coded roadmap that aligns with a dedicated total quality management process. This novel framework holds organizations across sectors accountable for improving care access and provision, and can be tailored to any organization. Quality data on the front-end is culled from evidence-based screening and assessment of health-related social needs, and uses diagnostic data (e.g., ICD-10CM-Z Codes). Revenue cycle management is as vital as interprofessional intervention, inter- and intra- agency collaboration, DEI priorities, then eclipsed by use of whole-person and inclusive- population health outcomes data.
You’ve all been patiently waiting for me to unveil my Doctoral Culminating Project, and your wait is over! My Wholistic Health Equity Quality Roadmap© will be formally unveiled in distinct versions at the upcoming industry events, including:
- RISE’s Qualipalooza, June 20-22, 2023 (June 21, 2023, Spotlight on Health Equity with Jenn Kerfoot)
- The Annual Case Management Society of America Conference, June 27-31, 2023 (June 30, 2023: Advancing the Wholistic Health Equity Quality Roadmap© -Dedicated session and full model roll-out)
- The Cummings Graduate Institute Integrated Care Conference, October 9-11, 2023 (October 11, 2023, Dedicated Integrated Care focus and model)
A 2-part article series will also be published in Wolter Kluwer’s Professional Case Management Journal this Fall.
The industry and its stakeholders are out of options! Implementation of the Wholistic Health Equity Quality Roadmap© at a national level is a moral, ethical, and financial imperative that will ensure inclusive, quality-driven, patient-centered, and concordant interventions for all populations.