Jones: Social is the Key to Reducing Healthcare Costs

Social is the Key to Reducing Healthcare Costs
By Mary-Sara Jones Associate Partner, Government Strategy and Transformation April 24, 2017

Improving social conditions reduces healthcare costs.This is a fact.We have seen it time and time again, whether it is clean drinking water, sanitation, the quality of the air we breathe, or lead paint used in residential buildings.A child growing up in a house with lead paint, will experience some level of cognitive decline.Regardless of medical intervention, the child’s life will be impacted – poor performance in school, lower paying job, increased likelihood of social and health related issues.Despite this, we continue to throw vast amounts of money into services and programs to treat the impact of poor social conditions instead of investing the funds necessary to prevent negative health outcomes.

Looking globally at developed countries there is a pattern of high social spends relative to health.The US does not follow this pattern and, not coincidentally, the US has the largest per capita health spend of all developed counties.Our nation is currently consumed with a debate about how best to support healthcare, but this is the wrong question.Instead we should be asking, how we improve health outcomes and the answer is not through healthcare, it is through social programs.

Today, it is possible to assess the total costs of a person, in dollars spent and dollars lost, based on their trajectory.It is possible using data we have and analytics to examine a given population and quantify the total costs of that population by service over time. Based on education, work history and current health condition, we can pretty closely model the individual’s trajectory, outcomes, and costs.This can be extrapolated to a population level, allowing the Department of Health to determine the total costs to programs over time for a specific population set.

What if you knew where to invest for your community, what would you do?If you could reduce the costs of healthcare significantly through investments in other programs, would you?What would you need in the form of a business case or Return on Investment?What would you need as proof?