New BCBS Institute working with Lyft, CVS, Walgreens to tackle social determinants

By Mike Miliard
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Anyone paying attention to population health management knows that it demands close attention be paid to crucial socioeconomic and environmental factors. It's why Epic is focused on incorporating data on food access and even loneliness in its "comprehensive health record." It's why Allscripts is partnering with Lyft to make it easier for patients to get access to care. It's why HIEs are developing alert tools on social determinants such as transportation and housing.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association has also partnered with Lyft – and it's just part of the project announced this week with the launch of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Institute, a new subsidiary that is taking aim at some of the biggest social determinants.

"Conservative estimates show 60 percent of health outcomes are driven by social determinants of health, including lifestyle behaviors and environmental factors," said Trent Haywood, MD, chief medical officer and president of the BCBS Institute.

BCBS Institute plans to improve health access and outcomes by leveraging technology and strategic alliances, officials say, focusing first on the so-called ZIP code effect – neighborhoods without adequate transportation, pharmacy, nutrition and fitness opportunities, working with partners such as the ride-sharing app, as well as pharmacy CVS and Walgreens to improve daily wellness for people outside the walls the doctor's office.
"For some of our members, it can be difficult to get to a physician's office for treatment, to the pharmacy for much-needed medication, to the grocery store for nutritious food or to a safe place to exercise," said  Scott P. Serota, president and CEO of BCBSA and chairman of the board of the new BCBS Institute.

"Serving one in three Americans in nearly every geographic area in the country, Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies know all too well that what often dictates health isn't genetic code, but ZIP code," he added.

With the new partnerships, BCBS Institute's first priority will be on transportation and pharmacy availability; it will home in on locales considered nutrition and fitness deserts in 2019.

The BCBS Institute uses data, sorted by ZIP code, to help brings together the partners best positioned to tailor solutions to meet community needs, such as dispatching rides for patients via Lyft.

"The work we're doing with BCBSA is critical to our goal of reducing the transportation healthcare gap by 50 percent in the next two years – and a key part of our mission to improve people's lives with the world's best transportation, said John Zimmer, Lyft co-founder and president.

The new institute will also work with CVS and Walgreens to improve accessibility to pharmacy services for underserved patient populations nationwide.

"A growing number of Americans live in areas where medical care is beyond reach, even when they have health insurance," added Troyen Brennan, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer for CVS Health. "Through working with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Institute, we are committed to addressing issues that are inextricably linked to health outcomes and which are greatly improved when people have access to pharmacies."