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Health Policy Affects Lives

Hispanic mother and two adult daughtersDuring this election year, I am reminded of the importance of good policy making, based on research, data, and real life experiences. Stratis Health’s work is often focused on patients and populations that are not necessarily mainstream and are often vulnerable or underserved in terms of health care—including seniors, rural residents, and cultural communities. These people and communities are affected by the policies and programs that our elected officials enact.

The demographics of Minnesota are changing rapidly.

With the Baby Boomers now reaching age 65 and becoming eligible for Medicare, we will see our senior population explode. Currently, our health care system is not well suited to respond to these patients’ needs, with far fewer geriatricians available than the population will need, for example. And our rural communities are disproportionately older, as well as have more chronic disease, bringing real challenges to delivering effective, high quality, efficient health care to our rural areas.

In addition, while many outside of Minnesota think only of our state’s traditional Scandinavian and German heritage, Minnesota’s racial and cultural picture is changing rapidly as well, especially as we continue to attract immigrants and refugees. The largest and fastest growing cultural communities in Minnesota are Hispanics and Latinos, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and African and African Americans. The need for cultural awareness and cultural competence among health care clinicians and organizations is imperative to being patient-centered.

Stratis Health’s work sits at the intersection of research, policy, and practice.

We are driving attention to these rapidly changing demographics and needs, developing and implementing resources and initiatives, based on evidence based best practices, to support high quality health care, and using our experiences to inform health care policy. We are leading the way in increasing cultural awareness and competence through our Culture Care Connection online resource center and related projects, in supporting rural health care providers to participate in the care delivery and payment innovations happening as a result of federal and state legislation, and improving care for seniors through our work as the Medicare QIO (Quality Improvement Organization) for Minnesota.

Policy making may seem like a distant concept, but it affects lives. Federal Medicare reimbursement policy is driving action to reduce hospital readmissions—and Stratis Health has worked as a RARE Campaign partner to help Minnesota hospitals successfully decrease avoidable readmissions by 13 percent so far since the launch of the campaign last year. For one patient, this means having a physician make a home visit to coordinate his medications prescribed by numerous doctors and to provide the patient with education and self-management skills, resulting in a drop from 30 hospitalizations in a year to remaining out of the hospital for six months and counting.

To quote Minnesota’s own Hubert Humphrey, “It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” We look forward to Stratis Health’s expertise and experience continuing to inform policies and improve care for Minnesotans most in need.

Jennifer P. Lundblad

 

Jennifer P. Lundblad, PhD, MBA

President and CEO, Stratis Health

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