Over the last decade, many state and federal governments in the US have stepped up efforts to integrate social care into traditional health care for Americans who receive their health insurance through the public Medicaid program. These policy initiatives have primarily focused on financing changes and on providing flexibility to Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs) to use healthcare dollars for addressing social needs through capacity-building and direct service delivery.
The goal of integrated care is to improve health outcomes and enhance quality of life while ensuring that people get the services they need, when they need them. Integrated care includes strategies to provide a holistic approach that addresses the non-medical aspects of health such as transportation, housing, food, and other basic necessities. This can help people maintain good health and stay engaged with their medical treatment, avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions.
However, achieving integrated care at the operational level remains a challenge. In the US, national policies have catalyzed initiatives to test new integrated care models, such as integrating screenings for social risks into the patient experience and linking those results with community-based navigation services. Early experiences have demonstrated that the operational components of these efforts require validated measures of social risk, a shift in power dynamics to include all stakeholders, and greater flexibility from government policymakers to align incentives and goals between sectors.
The world is experiencing a ‘perfect storm’ of challenges that make it even more urgent to address the gaps between health and social care. The second edition of Smarter Caring is timely and valuable, both for individuals and organisations that are tackling the complex task of streamlining their services. health and social care