Kaiser initiative aims to meet social needs of 'superusers'

The nation's largest integrated health delivery organization plans to expand its "Total Health" wellness mission to address unmet social needs for disadvantaged patients in order to close the gaps in U.S. healthcare outcomes between rich and poor.

Kaiser Permanente officials wrote about the initiative in a blog post for NEJM Catalyst. The California-based organization is partnering with social enterprise organization Health Leads to target the social determinants of health, which ultimately are believed to account for 60 percent of healthcare spending.

The two groups designed a pilot program that includes a call center where representatives coordinate between client needs and available services, then follow up with clients to see that their wellness needs are being met. 

By mimicking programs in other nations that  target non-medical issues as food insecurity, transportation issues and housing access, healthcare providers will ultimately save money while improving their clients' quality of life, the blog post said.

"Evidence shows that most healthcare strategies fail the top 1 percent of spenders--the high-cost, high-need super-utilizers," the authors wrote. These users are often economically disadvantaged. Some are homeless. 

The new program exemplifies the shift in healthcare to value-based, patient centered care, which recognizes that hospitals and healthcare providers overspend on patients who frequently uses their services while still not meeting their needs. 

To learn more:
- read the post