Health Leaders Highlight Actions Taken in Addressing Social Determinants of Health at Capitol Hill Briefing

Dr. William Queale, senior medical advisor, Maxim Healthcare Services
Dr. William Queale, senior medical advisor, Maxim Healthcare Services

The Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) hosted a congressional staff briefing that addressed social determinants of health and the role they play in the quality and cost of care.  Mary R. Grealy, HLC president, moderated the event.  The panel featured experts from Baxter, Change Healthcare, Maxim Healthcare Services, and Novo Nordisk.

Karin Gillespie, director of Changing Diabetes Policy for Novo Nordisk, talked about “Cities Changing Diabetes”, which addresses the urban lifestyle impact on diabetes incidence.  The program studied the risk factors for the vulnerable population and created public-private partnerships to collaborate on solutions.  Gillespie praised the patient education and engagement that has resulted from these efforts.

The senior medical advisor of Maxim Healthcare Services, William Queale, M.D., discussed how Maxim utilizes community health workers to address social determinants and reduce avoidable healthcare utilization.  He pointed out that healthcare utilization may stem from underlying socioeconomic and behavioral challenges, and community health workers act as liaisons between communities and health and social service systems.  Dr. Queale stated that hospital readmission rates were reduced by 65% as a result of this approach.

Jim Dalen, health economist for Change Healthcare, pointed out that 55% of Medicare-Medicaid “dual eligible” have three or more chronic conditions and a high disability rate.  Change’s Community Link programs link dual eligibles to over 14,000 community programs addressing barriers to daily life. The program supports services for transportation, nutrition, prescription assistance, disease management and more.  Dalen said that assisting Medicare Advantage beneficiaries with community programs directly targets barriers to care.

Guillermo Amezcua, senior director of market and pricing at Baxter, stated that chronic kidney disease represents 25% of Medicare costs. He remarked that patient literacy and access hinders timely care for chronic kidney disease, and it is critical for the United States to do a better job addressing social factors that affect care.  Interpersonal connections can reduce a sense of shame associated with chronic conditions and assist with treatment.  On that note, Amezcua announced that Baxter is launching a Patient Peer Program to help people make better decisions about kidney treatment plans.