This morning CVS Health and its recently acquired Aetna business announced new initiatives that will work with community organizers, social services and software makers to tackle social and environmental factors affecting individuals’ health.
To do so, the company has partnered with Unite Us, maker of care coordination products specifically designed to drive connections between social services and healthcare, on a new platform that will streamline referral of certain Aetna members to social services.
“Our mission is to connect individuals and families across the United States to the services they need through collaboration with local service providers, shared infrastructure, and an inclusive approach for those in need,” Taylor Justice, Unite Us co-founder and president, said in a statement. “Working with CVS Health, we will foster a community of care and a local support system to empower community members to make the most of the services available to them.”
Called Destination: Health, the new platform allows community health providers or Aetna nurse case managers to refer members to social care providers, while surfacing relevant information regarding this decision to the clinicians. Individuals may also search through an aggregated network of vetted social care providers on their own through a member-facing resource also developed by Unite Us.
These new tools will be available in the second half of the year to Aetna Medicaid members in Louisville, Kentucky, and to Dual-Eligible Special Needs Plan (both Medicaid and Medicare) members in Tampa, Florida, and Southeastern Louisiana. The companies said they are also eyeing opportunities to integrate these resources within CVS Health’s retail assets.
Along with Destination: Health, this morning’s announcement also highlighted another analytics tool developed by Aetna that calculates the estimated impact of social and environmental factors on health plan results. While the company is launching the first iteration of the tool to employers this month, CVS Health itself will be employing the calculator across various businesses to more effectively target interventions to plan sponsors and individuals.
WHAT’S THE IMPACT
The past few years have seen an increasing interest within healthcare to tackle so-called social determinants of health, which according to the CDC include food security, housing status and access to health services. Although traditionally beyond the scope of care provided by many practitioners or health organizations, these factors have a major impact on the health of an individual and the burden of their care system.
“Out of about 6,000 waking hours in a year, most people only spend a handful in a doctor’s office or hospital — you spend the vast majority of your time in your community,” Karen S. Lynch, EVP of CVS Health and president of Aetna, said in a statement. “CVS Health is a part of nearly 10,000 communities across the country, so by going beyond our significant philanthropic efforts and addressing social determinants of health through the products and programs our company develops, we have an unprecedented opportunity to improve the health of individuals and communities across America.”
THE LARGER TREND
CVS Health’s most recent efforts in this area — which come alongside the company’s investments into affordable housing for at-risk populations and a five-year, $100 million commitment to community health across the enterprise — are the latest in a trend of social determinant-focused partnerships and projects from healthcare and tech firms. March saw a collaboration between Blue Cross Blue Shield Institute and Solera Health on such a program, which was shortly followed by a similar effort headed by Northwell Health and NowPow. Also worth noting is that several startups focusing on these needs, such as Unite Us and Cityblock, are seeing their efforts supported by investors to the tune of millions.