Addressing the Health Crisis in Philadelphia’s Poorest Neighborhoods

By Leroy E. Jones, Founder and CEO, GSI Health

As the “poorest big city in America” Philadelphia has its challenges—particularly for healthcare. Struggling to treat Philadelphia’s large Medicaid and uninsured populations, hospitals are strained to their limits from low reimbursement rates and other issues. And poverty in the city, including healthcare burdens, costs us jobs, new business development, tourism, and other economic growth opportunities. Additionally, a strained healthcare system will not deliver the highest quality care, and the effects of this are seen in the health statistics for Philadelphia citizens, including a sad capstone that in 15 zip codes in North Philadelphia, life expectancy of children is 20 years shorter compared to their counterparts in wealthier zip codes.

But with tremendous challenges come tremendous opportunities for greatness. Philadelphia has the opportunity and the wherewithal to become a national leader in developing models of care that overcome the obstacles in caring for challenged populations. A partnership among the major stakeholders in this region can catalyze progress and magnify the impact of healthcare delivery not only in Philadelphia, but ultimately in all urban centers that follow our lead.

To that end, we have organized the Digital Health Initiative of Philadelphia (DHIP) in our hometown to try to leverage technological innovation from health IT companies in the region to benefit the most vulnerable populations of Philadelphia. We believe this is a win-win-win scenario: digital health companies win by getting real populations to validate the value of their offerings; vulnerable populations win by having the latest in healthcare technology curated and applied to improve their health outcomes; and the region wins by becoming a leader in how to manage tough chronic diseases, complicated behavioral health issues, and adverse social conditions through advanced population health techniques. The Digital Health Initiative of Philadelphia (DHIP) is galvanizing our business, political, technical, and social communities in this charge toward greatness.

 

DHIP—What Is It?

 

The DHIP seeks to promote digital health across the city, applying technology consistently to achieve better health outcomes in a community-based care model of population health management. So what does this mean?

Digital health in the Philadelphia area can be an enabler for our local health institutions to collaborate and to apply contemporary techniques to improve care. Strong minds from the medical, behavioral, human services, and technical domains are co-resident here to enable world-class healthcare applications and leverage them into emerging workflows that optimize new payment-reform initiatives. We need those minds to come together and organize toward a common goal—effective and efficient population health management—and adopt common curated technology donated by digital health companies that will help us reach that goal. This will enable these organizations to implement community-care models that yield better outcomes for the people they serve, and better operations for the participating service providers.

This initiative is a way forward for the city to emerge as an unqualified leader in the digital health space—and in the process to accrue the benefits of this leadership, such as creating jobs, attracting residents and businesses, and optimizing healthcare.

 

Population Health Management as a Platform

Population health management (PHM) is one of the standout areas in healthcare and healthcare IT today. It is maximized when it is comprehensive and community-based, includes all services that impact a patient’s health (e.g., medical, behavioral, social), and extends beyond the walls of any single care establishment to encompass all relevant service providers contributing to patient wellness.

PHM’s breadth of coverage in the delivery of care can engage many stakeholders, thus making it a valuable platform to leverage to ensure maximum inclusion and applicability for healthcare change. And significant value is available to these stakeholders who can implement a successful PHM strategy:

  • Patients gain the most through community-based care management that improves care quality and outcomes.
  • Providers benefit through collaboration across the community that improves efficiency, provides insights on effective treatment, and mitigates risk.
  • Payers and managed care organizations can more effectively distribute risk and influence care as it is being planned and executed rather than after the fact.
  • Employers, particularly those that self-insure, can directly affect the health of their employees and provide a direct channel for enrollment.
  • Digital health companies, including the entire ecosystem of local technology businesses, can innovate and validate their offerings in a real-world use case.
  • The Philadelphia region will develop a leadership position that will attract investment, businesses, and people to the area. PHM is a job generator.

 

Call to Action

The DHIP was born out of desire to accelerate the widespread and tangible application of technology to improve healthcare in Philadelphia, and to make Philadelphia a recognized leader in digital health. A core principle of the initiative is thoughtful but rapid forward progress. You can help by taking action:

  • Endorse—Support the DHIP by lending your name and making a public endorsement of this initiative, which may include listing your name in materials used to promote the DHIP.
  • Fund—Support the DHIP by investing your dollars in Philadelphia through underwriting DHIP activities. Our goal is to develop an optimal long-term funding strategy such as a combination of local funding from stakeholders and a sustainable business model (which will be pursued).
  • Participate—Support the DHIP through planning and contribution of in-kind resources. For local digital health companies, incubators, and institutional investors, bring forward your digital health assets for consideration. For services providers of human services, health care services, and behavioral health services, join our effort to apply these technologies toward the betterment of collaborative care.
  • Proliferate—Support and advocate for digital health across the city.

The citizens of Philadelphia deserve the best healthcare, and our best efforts to ensure it.

 

Want to Learn More?

Read more about how Philadelphia can emerge as an unqualified leader in the healthcare space at gsihealth.com/DHIP, and about the benefits for the Philadelphia region at gsihealth.com/PHMforPhilly. Contact LeRoy E. Jones, Founder & CEO, GSI Health at leroy.jones@gsihealth.com for more information.

 

About LeRoy E. Jones, Founder & CEO, GSI Health

LeRoy E. Jones founded GSI Health to help solve a problem—the uninformed, uncoordinated care being practiced in today’s healthcare system. He strives to drive innovation in the healthcare IT industry to create a world in which data-driven technology optimizes care delivery, and ultimately results in healthier patients and populations.


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