Much like “wind before windmills,” there are a variety of latent natural resources ready to be tapped to promote health and reduce medical spending, according to Dr. Dave Chokshi, Chief Population Health Officer, OneCity Health, and Christopher C. Jennings, founder and president, Jennings Policy Strategies, in their new JAMA Forum article “Latent Natural Resources for Health”.
They highlight three potential resources.
- People – Could nontraditional caregivers be a part of, or at least strategically supplement, the health care workforce, particularly for older adults? For example, Chokshi and Jennings cite the Call and Check program, through which postal workers on the island of Jersey check in on frail elders and deliver medication at a low cost.
- Policy – Government policies not explicitly about health, but that could engender significant health improvement (or decline), could be reevaluated in that context. For example, Chokshi and Jennings note a recent study showed that participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) was associated with a reduction in health spending of $1400 per person per year among low-income adults. With this additional information, payors and health systems could shift resources to leverage those policies.
- Data – Medical records have a wealth of information, and as Chokshi and Jennings describe in one example, the movement to share clinicians’ notes with patients, known as OpenNotes, is with associated with patients feeling more in control of their care and improved medication adherence. Unlocking additional data could lead to more engaged patients and better care coordination.
Not only could resources like medical notes and the postal service improve health and lower costs, conclude Chokshi and Jennings, but they could help us sidestep incrementalism – a prominent feature in our health care system – because they are often already at scale.