Sometimes It's About More Than Medicine

Posted on Jan 21st 2020 by Latondra Steele

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There are many non-medical factors that can have an impact on an individual’s overall health. As a result, it requires Florida Blue to take a more holistic approach—to go beyond traditional medicine—to help our members achieve better health. I recently sat down with Dr. Kelli Wells, Sr. Medical Director at Florida Blue, to talk more about these non-medical factors, known as social determinants of health, and how we’re addressing them for our members.

Q: Dr. Wells, what are social determinants of health?

Dr. Wells: Good question! Social determinants of health are environmental conditions in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship and age. These conditions can affect physical and emotional health and influence health outcomes for people.

Q: What are some examples of social determinants of health?

Dr. Wells: Examples include lack of consistent housing, loneliness, lack of regular access to healthy food, lack of transportation, lack of access to quality childcare, poverty, substandard education and environmental exposures. These are just some of the factors that can adversely impact an individual’s quality of life and physical and emotional health.

Q: Explain how one of these conditions can hinder someone from getting the care they need?

Dr. Wells: For instance, lack of transportation — if someone doesn’t have access to reliable transportation, it can be difficult for them to get back and forth to their job. If they are unable to work consistently, that can negatively affect their income and make it harder for them to pay basic bills. When people are worried about just getting by from one day to the next, it makes it difficult for them to focus on their health and wellbeing.

Q: How is Florida Blue addressing some of these challenges?

Dr. Wells: We have community specialists at many Florida Blue Centers across the state to provide necessary support for members and visitors. They act as social workers to provide assistance with a wide range of issues, such as employment, housing and health and wellness education.

Let’s go back to the issue of transportation. When members miss medical appointments due to lack of transportation, it can lead to disruption or delay in their care. This can cause illnesses or medical conditions to worsen, increase medical costs and ultimately lead to more emergency room visits and hospitalizations. It’s why we’ve partnered with Lyft to provide free rides to doctors’ visits for our members with an Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual plan.

We also know that social isolation is a significant issue for aging adults and can have a major effect on their overall health. We’ve partnered with Papa, a nationwide provider of senior services, to connect college students to our members with select Medicare Advantage plans. Think of it as “Grandkids on Demand.” These members can get companionship, assistance with transportation and household chores, and other support services.

These are just some of the ways we’re tackling social determinants of health for Florida Blue members.

Q: What guidance would you offer to someone who’s finding it difficult to get the care they need due to social circumstances?
Dr. Wells: Social disadvantages don’t have to keep you from achieving your best level of health. Be honest about the challenges you face. Ask for help. There are many public and private organizations that can assist you with a variety of needs. Know that our Florida Blue Centers aren’t just for our members. Anyone can come in to a center and speak with one of our community specialists. They will work with you to get you the help you need.

Find a Florida Blue Center near you.


Filed under: Community  

Latondra Steele

After a 20-year hiatus, Latondra recently relocated back to the Sunshine State and now works as an internal communications consultant at Florida Blue. As a true communications explorer, she enjoys helping people and organizations say the right things to the right people at the right time. She has a BS in Journalism from Florida A&M University and a MS in Communications from Purdue University. You can follow her on Twitter at @ Steele_I_Rise, especially if you’re a guinea pig owner!

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