More on Population Health

Why Kaiser Permanente is committing $200 million to decrease homelessness

Making such investments could reduce a hospital's readmissions rates and morbidity, and help to avoid financial penalties and poor ratings.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

As value, quality and population health continue to drive the evolution of the healthcare landscape, healthcare systems are wading into social issues more deeply than ever before because they affect the populations these hospitals serve.

Kaiser Permanente, for instance, has committed $200 million to address homelessness in the communities it serves. The investment will go through the system's Thriving Communities Fund and initially focus on preventing displacement or homelessness of middle or lower-income households in "rapidly changing communities," decreasing by ensuring supportive housing and enhancing housing to make it healthier and environmentally sound.

The system pointed out that housing plays a crucial role in a person's health and well-being and the investment aligns with the KP's overall mission of providing quality care to its more than 12 million members as well as the 65 million-plus residents in the geographic region it has facilities.

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[Also: Kaiser Permanente to create best practices for preventing gun violence]

"Many of the communities we serve are grappling with some of the highest rates of housing insecurity and homelessness in the United States. As a family physician, I've provided medical care to the homeless, and have seen first-hand the impact that living without a home can have on someone's health," said Bechara Choucair, MD, Kaiser Permanente's chief community health officer. "To improve the health of an entire community we must step beyond the four walls of our hospitals and medical offices to help those most in need."

As the transition to value-based reimbursement continues, which includes a number of population health-based measures, health systems are looking beyond the confines of their facilities for ways to prove the value of they care they deliver and ways to enhance the health of their communities.

They are also evaluated by the quality of outcomes in their facilities, and it has been proven that social determinants of health such as housing and food insecurity directly and significantly impact a patient's ability to recover from and manage illness. The absence of secure housing, for instance, will certainly inhibit a patient's ability to recover from illness or injury.

This can mean a patient may be readmitted for additional care or redress of the original health issue and can impact the hospital's readmissions rates and even morbidity. Poor performance in these two areas can result in financial penalties and poor ratings. Moreover, it can mean a poorer overall outlook on the hospital's ability to effectively treat and heal patients.

Kaiser Permanente also recently committed $2 million to researching and implementing best practices on how hospitals can address and prevent firearm injury and death through a new task force. The project is in its infancy but hopes to identify evidence-based tools that can guide clinical and community prevention efforts.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn
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