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Kaiser Permanente Network to Address Social Determinants of Health

The program will help providers refer patients to community care services that address the social determinants of health.

Kaiser Permanente has launched Thrive Local, a network of community care services set to address the social determinants of health.

This program comes as a part of Kaiser Permanente’s numerous efforts to address public health and the social determinants of health, or the social factors that influence an individual’s ability to achieve health and wellness.

"Kaiser Permanente has long understood that total health can only be achieved through a combination of physical, mental and social care," said Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson. "In order to thrive, people need access to the things that are vital to health such as secure housing and nutritious food. Our unique mission to improve not only the health of our members, but also that of our communities, drives us to undertake impactful initiatives like Thrive Local to connect our communities with the services they need. This is one of our bold moves."

Dig Deeper

The initiative, created in partnership with SDOH data software company Unite Us, will allow Kaiser Permanente providers to refer patients to social services that can address food security, housing stability, public safety, and access to utilities, among other services.

The technology will integrate into the Kaiser Permanente EHR, allowing providers to view the specific social determinants of health an individual patient experiences and the social services available for addressing that need.

For example, a clinician can connect a patient who is homeless with a community program that connects the patient with more stable housing sources. Another patient who cannot afford healthy food options may be referred to an affordable groceries program.

From there, Kaiser Permanente will track patient outcomes. This will help medical experts understand the efficacy of certain community partners as well as the overall impact that community health services can have on the social determinants of health and overall wellness.

"By integrating this network into our clinical care, our members with unmet social needs will be connected to community services more efficiently," said Bechara Choucair, MD, chief community health officer, Kaiser Permanente. "In addition, Thrive Local will be open to community health centers and community-based organizations to improve social health access for the entire community."

Experts have concluded that the social determinants of health account for up to 80 percent of total patient wellness – a patient’s zip code is more indicative of their health than their genetic code, experts state.

When a patient cannot access healthy foods, obtain transportation to a medical appointment, lives in an unsafe home or on the streets, or experiences public safety issues, they are less likely to be healthy, industry leaders agree.

And these problems can be pervasive, impacting up to half of all patients, according to some estimates.

Up to 29 percent of Kaiser Permanente’s patient population are dealing with food insecurity, the health system reported. Another 23 percent struggle with housing stability, highlighting the need for comprehensive community health programs.

Kaiser Permanente plans to launch the new technologies this summer. In three years, KP leaders hopes to see full health system adoption across its 12.3 million member patients. Individuals living in communities in which Kaiser Permanente serves will also benefit from the services as Thrive Local implements more community health programming.

"Where and how people live, work and play drive more than half of health outcomes. To address total health, we, as physicians, need systems and networks that address our patients' social needs," said Imelda Dacones, MD, president and chief executive officer, Northwest Permanente. "Health care in this country must continue to evolve — from acute episodic care, to an integrated coordinated system focused on prevention and coordinated care management. This tool will accelerate our evolution as a sector to next-generation care delivery — a community-integrated model that connects physicians, our patients and health care systems to community resources that address our patients' socioeconomic needs."