From Kevin Porter, SentryHealth CEO
Recently, I joined a panel of health care leaders at the Kentuckiana Health Collaborative Annual Conference to discuss emerging value-based and health optimization strategies in Kentucky. Specifically, I was asked, “What is needed to optimize health in Kentucky?” I’d like to share my answer with you because health optimization is vitally important when it comes to taking care of fellow Kentuckians.
Current State of Health and Wellbeing
Almost a quarter of Kentuckians are considered to be in less than good health. And in rural counties, that number is even higher. In addition, Kentucky has more smokers, more obese adults, and more heart disease deaths than the national average.
So what’s driving these statistics? Many of these critical issues that drive health care costs started when people were young. We know that early detection and treatment is vital for positive outcomes. Especially for chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer.
But there’s also an issue with accessibility to health care. Many low-income people, and those who live in rural areas, don’t often have immediate access to affordable, quality, in-person health care. This can lead to them not seeking care at all. Or maybe they wait until they have an urgent medical condition they can no longer ignore.
So I go back to my original question…
What is Needed to Optimize Health in Kentucky?
Raise Health Literacy
One of the first things needed to move the needle on health optimization is to increase health literacy. We need to offer people education, resources, and tools to better understand their health. These should be easy to understand. They should be relatable. And they should be accessible.
Ensure Affordable Access
The second thing is we need to ensure affordable access to health care. Of the approximately 4.4 million Kentuckians, 1.7 million are on Medicaid. Comparatively, that’s up from 1.4 million in 2019. This shows that millions struggle with paying for health care every day. Therefore, it’s important that we look at creative ways to offer affordable health care.
That’s why at SentryHealth, we’re partnering with employers to deliver digital and telehealth solutions that offer effective help and treatment in a low or no-cost way. We aren’t taking the place of good old-fashioned face to face care. We’re giving Kentuckians options for an accessible first point of care that they may not have had before.
Address Social Determinants of Health
Lastly, we need to focus on social determinants of health. These are external factors that may affect health, outcomes, and risks. They include access to health care, access to and quality of education, where people live and work, economic stability, and community influences.
Social determinants of health contribute to wide health disparities. For example, if someone doesn’t have access to a grocery store with healthy food, they are less likely to have good nutrition. This in turn increases their risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and more. In addition, there’s a cost associated with good nutrition. For example, compare the cost of feeding a family of four off the value menu vs. buying fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat.
By applying what we know about social determinants of health, we can create environments that promote better health and wellbeing across the state. We can also advance health equity among everyone.
The Need for Better Stakeholder Relationships
We have a huge opportunity to transform how health care is delivered to Kentuckians. But there needs to be solid stakeholder partnerships and better collaboration. To drive improvements, we all need to come together to focus on the same priorities. This includes coordinated, holistic health care that addresses prevention and better wellbeing. By doing so, we all work toward a unified goal that ultimately will result in better outcomes and more satisfied people.
Achieving Health Equity
To achieve health optimization and equity, we can’t ignore the different obstacles that many Kentuckians face. Poverty, discrimination, and access to quality care are all problems.
Our health and wellbeing solution, WellOnMyWay, is very data-driven. That means that it aggregates and analyzes data, like health care claims, prescription data, biometric assessments, and more to create a unique profile of each member. This data then allows us to personalize health and wellbeing journeys.
We know that no two people are alike, and we don’t treat them as such. We integrate social determinants of health to effectively support and guide our members to the right care at the right time. For example, if we have a high population of members located in a rural area, we are thoughtful about how, where, and through what means we drive participation. We also consider the recommendations that we make to members seeking help.
How We Can Help
At SentryHealth, we’re really focused on driving better health and wellbeing in Kentucky and across the United States. It’s pretty exciting to see and hear what others are doing in the state to improve health care. I look forward to continuing to do so as well. I truly believe that if we focus on whole-person care, weaving together data, innovation, and personalized support, Kentuckians will be better for it. As healthcare’s key players in the state, it’s our responsibility to make that impact for good.
If you’d like to learn more about how WellOnMyWay can help you ensure your employees are getting the most out of their health and wellbeing benefits, let us know. My team and I would love the opportunity to show you what we can do.