How Ochsner’s focus on social determinants will continue to lead its innovation efforts

New Orleans-based Ochsner Health System has been innovating around population-level social determinants of health since it was founded in the 1940s, well before value-based care had become a widespread priority of the healthcare industry.

At the time, the inclusion of social factors in a patients' overall care was "a really new and radical idea," Phil Oravetz, MD, Ochsner's chief population health officer, told the AMA in a recent interview. He added, "But they innovated in that model, and it's been growing ever since."

Now, the rest of the industry is finally beginning to catch up with Ochsner's population health strategy. "We're finally seeing a shift from an illness model to a wellness model," Dr. Oravetz said. "We're finally collecting social determinants of health data on our patients and we're using that data to develop interventions to keep people well and healthy."

Many of Ochsner's innovation efforts still revolve around the premise of holistic health. For example, a new EHR module at the health system tracks social determinants and environmental factors to identify patients in need of food, transportation and other health-related needs.

"We're offering those types of services now," Dr. Oravetz told the AMA. "We're partnering with our communities, with our local governments and with our payers to do this in a coordinated fashion."

Wanda Robinson, MD, associate medical director for primary care in Ochsner's West Bank region, added, "Sometimes we focus on the physical aspects of the patient and do not realize or recognize that there are other components to that individual. ... It would be wonderful if we had the time to really meet the patients where they are and to be able to address their real concerns and what they perceive as being the best version of themselves or what they perceive their health goals are."

More articles on innovation:
Innovationeering: Creativity is dead ... long live innovation
Former Partners CIO: How to fail-proof healthcare innovation
18 hospital innovation initiatives launched in 2019

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