Can Health Care Go Beyond the Clinic?

Posted at: 09/17/2013 9:30 PM
Updated at: 09/17/2013 10:14 PM
By: Travis Dill

Minnesota will receive over $45 million to transform health care in the state, and community leaders met Tuesday in Duluth to think outside the clinic.

Minnesota is one of six states to be awarded an Innovation Model Initiative grant. The grants are meant to bring down health care costs with big changes to the way the system works. Over 150 physicians, social workers and state officials gathered at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center to brainstorm ideas.

Minnesota's Assistant Commissioner of Health Ellen Benavides said that starts with moving past simple diagnostics.

“What's the different conversation we need to have as opposed to talking exclusively about health care, health care delivery, or health care payment,” Benavides said.

She said the conversation should focus on the community over office visits.

“We're talking about body and mind, the education system, employment, walkable streets,” Benavides said.

She said helping people with social needs like a job, education and housing is new thinking in health care, but physicians said those needs can be more important to overall health than a prescription.

“It's not the medications we prescribe that improve their health. It's what they do everyday, how they live their lives. So really your lifestyle primarily determines your health outcome,” Dr. Nancy Sudak said.

Sudak said those needs are important for everyone, but some cannot afford to seek help. The health care leaders said that is where partnerships with local social services can help out.

Benavides said addressing the social needs of community members can help prevent illness just like exercise and nutritious foods. She said that can bring down the cost of health care for everyone.

Sudak said Duluth has great social services in place, but the grant will help these community and health care leaders make improvements moving forward.

“So I think Duluth is unique in terms of the availability of services for the under-served, but we still have a long way to go,” Sudak said.

The grant will help communities across the state. About half of the $45 million is slated for technology that improves communication between clinics and community services.

State officials said the move is expected to save Minnesota over $100 million over three years, with $90 million in Medicaid savings.