With Thrive Local, Kaiser Permanente Uses Its EHR to Address Social Determinants of Health

September 5, 2019

// By Althea Fung //

Althea Fung

Treating illness is important, but that is only a part of overall health. Social determinants of health (SDoH) — the conditions under which people are born, live, and work — are increasingly recognized as strong influences on health. Conditions like poverty, education level, and lack of social support contribute to more than half of premature deaths in the U.S. each year, according to a recent report from AmeriHealth Caritas, a managed care organization.

With factors outside of the doctor’s office playing a significant role in outcomes and health care costs, many health care organizations are beginning to develop programs centered on connecting patients with social services aimed at addressing SDoH.

Recently, Kaiser Permanente, a multi-state health system based in Oakland, California, launched Thrive Local — a social health network. The program, which began its rollout this summer in the Pacific Northwest, will allow health care providers to track a patient’s social health issues in electronic health records (EHR) and connect patients to social services in their area.

Loel Solomon, PhD, vice president of community health at Kaiser Permanente

Loel Solomon, PhD, vice president of community health at Kaiser Permanente

“We’ve been doing work to address the social needs of our members for a while, and in doing that work, we realized people’s social health — their ability to get healthy food, their ability to have safe and stable housing, their ability to make it to the doctor’s office — is just as important as their physical and mental health,” says Loel Solomon, PhD, vice president of Community Health at Kaiser Permanente. “Thrive Local is an expression of the idea that social health is a critical part of what a prevention-oriented delivery system has to do for our 12.3 million members.”

The organization anticipates that in three years the program will be available to members throughout California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, the Mid-Atlantic region (Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Virginia), Oregon, and Washington state, as well as nonmembers in those regions.

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