How whole person care initiatives and data can create healthier communities

Josh Morgan, PsyD
Josh Morgan
data analytics whole person care

What is whole person care?

Whole person care is about systems and services that support people in a person-centered, strengths-based way that includes health and non-health perspectives. A person may touch many health and government services based on needs including physical health, behavioral health, social services, housing, transportation and criminal justice. For instance, a person who repeatedly needs public health services may benefit from a more stable living environment, so perhaps supplemental housing would lead to better outcomes for the citizen and fewer demands on agencies. 

Data from the relevant agencies can provide us with a more holistic view of a person. Whole person analytics creates healthier communities through a more accurate, complete understanding of needs and improved access to care. Analytics also helps us know what’s working and what’s not, leading to an improved system-wide demonstration and evaluation of impact. 

How does transportation fit into whole person care?

Transportation is critical for access to care. Particularly for populations with fewer resources, lack of transportation can be a significant barrier to care. When we don’t recognize legitimate barriers, like transportation, we might write off missed or late appointment attendance as someone who is resistant or non-compliant to treatment when in fact, they can’t get care. It can fundamentally reshape how we engage with people.

What role can data and analytics play in helping people get the help they need?

Whole person analytics can empower tailored risk stratification, supporting agencies in knowing who to proactively engage in supportive services. This is helpful in identifying folks who need additional assistance in accessing care, rather than waiting until there’s an emergency. Further, having a more holistic understanding of community need and the impact of services can support advocacy efforts. Rather than just focusing on traditional definitions of medical necessity that are symptom- and pathology-focused, we can raise awareness of a more complete, accurate picture of needs and supports. Such services improve cost effectiveness and create better outcomes and quality, and better experiences of care. 

What advice would you have for organizations and public sector agencies that want to embark on whole person care initiatives, including transportation?

Collaborate and communicate. Whole person care is fundamentally about breaking down silos. Different organizations and agencies can and should have specialties, but they can no longer operate in isolation. Communication is essential to true collaboration. Data sharing will eventually be facilitated by these relationships. We have to trust one another in order to be willing to share data. It’s also important to remember that data sharing can occur while protecting confidentiality and privacy. Many privacy laws allow data sharing for evaluation, quality improvement, and analytics-type efforts. Even if that does not empower an individual-level action, it can empower population-level insights, which can still drive powerful policy and system change. Such population insights can raise awareness of benefits and/or barriers to care, such as transportation, leading to informed and meaningful actions that enhance access to beneficial services.

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About Josh Morgan

Josh Morgan, PsyD, is National Director of Behavioral Health and Whole Person Care at SAS, where he helps public sector agencies use data and analytics to support person-centered approaches for better health outcomes. He is a #data4good evangelist and advocate for improving benefits, access to care and more holistic services. Find him on Twitter, @DrJosh.