A person’s health is the product of a complex equation relating to their family health history, personal lifestyle choices, and social and environmental factors.
For example, a patient’s chronic cough might be treated with a decongestant, even though the real root of the problem is their frequent exposure to irritants at the factory where they work.
In another case, a patient might suffer from back pain. When he seeks help, he’s offered pain medication, but the medication’s impact is limited because the actual issue is that the man’s house has too many steps that he’s forced to repeatedly climb.
There is a strong connection between social determinants and health, but traditional healthcare systems and benefit strategies are not set up to effectively understand and support a patient’s whole health or address specific inequities that act as barriers to greater health.
The impact of social determinants on patient health
Social determinants are defined as non-medical factors and conditions that impact a person’s health outcomes and overall well-being. These factors can come from a wide range of sources but are typically tied to a patient’s home life, economic situation, and workplace.
Understanding where a patient is coming from is the key to unlocking the path that will lead to better health for them.
Each patient’s health is as unique as their personality, and healthcare systems have to support the whole person if they want to improve outcomes.
Traditional healthcare does not go far enough
In traditional fee-for-service models, misaligned incentives don’t reimburse providers for taking the time needed to uncover root causes. Under this system, there’s no responsibility for patient outcomes, but providers are encouraged to move quickly through appointments instead. This leads to patient-provider interactions that are exceptionally brief.
Without ample time to investigate, understand, and support patients, healthcare is reactionary, not proactive or preventive.
In order to make the greatest impact, providers need time to dive into a patient’s whole health and build a trusting relationship that enables them to discuss and explore social determinants that affect well-being.
A whole health approach with advanced primary care
With these resources in place, providers and patients can form meaningful, trusting relationships that lead to honest communication. That line of communication is critical to understanding which social determinants are impacting their health and well-being.
Once the root causes of a patient’s health issues are understood, providers and Vera whole health coaches continue to rely on these trusting relationships to build common goals and work toward them. Patients are supported and guided throughout their healthcare journeys to make the small lifestyle changes that add up to big results.
Because of this approach, Vera patients are more likely to engage and follow through with treatments, whether those treatments involve taking medication or sticking with the plans they develop with their care teams (involving behaviors such as going to the gym or practicing self-care).
Ultimately, the APC model is transforming healthcare to meet patients' unique needs, offer a more meaningful experience, and address social determinants of health.
This is an updated version of a post that was originally published on November 21, 2019.