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Population health innovations and payment to address social needs among patients and communities with diabetes

K.E. Gunter, M.E. Peek, J.P. Tanumihardjo, E. Carbrey, R.D. Crespo, T.W. Johnson, B. Rueda-Yamashita, E.I. Schwartz, C. Sol, C.M. Wilkinson, J.O. Wilson, E. Loehmer, M.H. Chin
Milbank Q

Context: Increasingly, health care organizations are implementing interventions to improve outcomes for patients with complex health and social needs, including diabetes, through cross-sector partnerships with nonmedical organizations. However, fee-for-service and many value-based payment systems constrain options to implement models of care that address social and medical needs in an integrated fashion. We present experiences of eight grantee organizations from the Bridging the Gap: Reducing Disparities in Diabetes Care initiative to improve diabetes outcomes by transforming primary care and addressing social needs within evolving payment models.

Methods: Analysis of eight grantees through site visits, technical assistance calls, grant applications, and publicly available data from US census data (2017) and from Health Resources and Services Administration Uniform Data System Resources data (2018). Organizations represent a range of payment models, health care settings, market factors, geographies, populations, and community resources.

Findings: Grantees are implementing strategies to address medical and social needs through augmented staffing models to support high-risk patients with diabetes (e.g., community health workers, behavioral health specialists), information technology innovations (e.g., software for social needs referrals), and system-wide protocols to identify high-risk populations with gaps in care. Sites identify and address social needs (e.g., food insecurity, housing), invest in human capital to support social needs referrals and coordination (e.g., embedding social service employees in clinics), and work with organizations to connect to community resources. Sites encounter challenges accessing flexible up-front funding to support infrastructure for interventions. Value-based payment mechanisms usually reward clinical performance metrics rather than measures of population health or social needs interventions.

Conclusions: Federal, state, and private payers should support critical infrastructure to address social needs and incentivize care that addresses social needs and outcomes sensitive to social risk. Population health strategies that address medical and social needs for populations living with diabetes will need to be tailored to a range of health care organizations, geographies, populations, community partners, and market factors. Payment models should support and incentivize these strategies for sustainability.

Gunter KE, Peek ME, Tanumihardjo JP, et al. Population health innovations and payment to address social needs among patients and communities with diabetes. Milbank Q. 2021 Sep 1. doi: 10.1111/1468-0009.12522. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34468996.

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Peer Reviewed Research
Social Determinant of Health
Not Specified
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Other Study Design