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The top 5 conditions affecting communities, according to new BCBSA tool

Mapping technologies and population health make a beautiful pairing. Using geographical data can assist care delivery strategies as tech tools such as GIS can track and trend health data for a community overtime.

“As the move to accountable care and value-based payments takes hold, providers and health plans are increasingly interested in applying GIS to assess risk based on geography and the populations that live there, reveal where the greatest need is, and prioritize areas for interventions,” Danny Patel, account executive for health and human services at GIS software maker Esri, told Healthcare Dive in May.

While providers can look to reduce unnecessary readmissions using such efforts, plans like Blue Cross Blue Shield Association – which recently released its new BCBS Health Index – can use local health data to understand the health of a county/population. The tool, using blinded claims data from more than 40 million commercially-insured BCBS members, identifies the health conditions with the greatest impact on the commercially insured. The tool includes information on over 200 conditions.

"What the health index gives us is the ability to work with local stakeholders...to talk about where we need to focus broader health resources," Maureen Sullivan, chief strategy and innovation officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, told Healthcare Dive. She said the tool isn't a "healthiest place to live" navigator but rather a starting point to understand conditions affecting communities and develop peer networks.

What was found

The organization found overall the top five conditions affecting individuals in the sample were:

  • Depression;
  • Hypertension;
  • Diabetes;
  • High cholesterol; and
  • Substance misuse disorders.

These top conditions cause about 30% of the overall reduction in health among commercially insured Americans, according to BCBSA.

"One of our takeaways is how important behavioral health is to physical well-being," Sullivan told Healthcare Dive. This isn't surprising, as more health tech companies such as Doctor on Demand are expanding offerings and partnering with insurers/employers to include behavioral/psychiatry offerings for employees.

Moody's Analytics analyzed BCBSA's tool and found a link between healthy people, economies with healthier counties having lower unemployment and higher incomes. According to BCBSA, when compared to counties with a median BCBS Health Index result, counties within the top 10% had:

  • Per capita income $3,700 higher;
  • 10-year economic growth of 3.5% higher; and
  • An unemployment rate half a point lower.

Action time

“The traditional ‘silos’ of medical, behavioral health and social services can’t meet the needs of our population alone,” Jim Hickman, CEO of California-based Better Health East Bay, part of Sutter Health, recently told Healthcare Dive. “Partnerships, enabled by technology and amplified by data-sharing, are the first step in changing the way we deliver care.”

To that end, Sullivan noted the index was created to have a consistent measure to help improve the health of local communities as "what you measure is what you improve." She added she hopes the index will serve as a launching pad for partnerships in communities to focus and improve on conditions affecting their citizens.

"By harnessing the data of the country’s largest healthcare system, the BCBS Health Index presents tremendous potential for business leaders, medical professionals and policymakers to have data-driven conversations about how to enhance overall quality of life," Sullivan said in a prepared statement.

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Filed Under: Payer Practice Management
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