HealthPartners, an integrated provider and insurance healthcare organization serving Minnesota and Wisconsin, is creating a measure of patient well-being to encourage physician conversations with patients about their overall life satisfaction.

Measuring patients’ perceptions of the quality of their lives is an important barometer of future health, says Tom Kottke, MD, a cardiologist and senior clinical investigator at Health Partners. Even people whose health is good and are doing well financially can be unhappy or dissatisfied with aspects of their lives, and that can have medical consequences over time. “What we know is that being healthy and wealthy doesn’t necessarily contribute to well-being,” Kottke adds.

For two decades, HealthPartners has been analyzing clinical and claims data to improve how the organization conducts preventive care, manages chronic disease, and promotes healthy behaviors to improve medical outcomes.

Now, the organization is adding data to improve emotional and functional outcomes. Based on a survey of 5,000 HealthPartners insurance members, contributing factors that can improve a sense of wellness include good nutrition, not smoking, healthy thinking, modest alcohol use, preventive services, physical activity and adequate sleep.

Tom Kottke, MD
Tom Kottke, MD

“These are associated with staying healthy; they are the sustainability of health,” Kottke says.

Adding these factors into HealthPartners providers’ electronic health records systems makes them accessible during a physician visit and fosters a conversation that helps physicians to better understand their patients’ daily lives, and offer opportunities to discuss how patients can change certain behaviors.

“Well-being is life satisfaction,” Kottke adds. “If people are dissatisfied, we can work on the reasons.”

All of the data that has been analyzed over 20 years and all the new data from the survey, which will be conducted annually, can identify certain factors in patients’ lives that can lower well-being, and HealthPartners has multiple outreach programs to help those in need.

For instance, the organization offers an online cognitive behavior therapy program to treat depression, anxiety and stress, which Kottke calls a “beating the blues program,” and one-on-one online counseling services. HealthPartners also can identify members anxious about the conditions of their neighborhoods, and assist members in finding ways to discuss ways to make improvements with community leaders.

HealthPartners also worked with other major companies in the region to adopt a program to automatically enroll employees in a 401K program, unless they opt out, to encourage savings.

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