Four Ways Health Innovators Fellows Are Making Health Care More Just

The debate about U.S. health care can seem never-ending, but Health Innovators Fellows are working to break through the noise. Last week, members of the Health Innovators Fellowship’s third class shared how they are addressing injustices in U.S. health care at Aspen Ideas: Health 2019. Their session, “And Justice for All,” focused on inadequate treatments, unjust conditions in American communities, physician burnout, and the transactional nature of patient care.

Read on for four ways these Health Innovators are bringing “justice for all” to U.S. health care.

1. Eating Our Way to a Cure
After reading about and implementing a diet that helped a friend’s child reach complete remission of an often-fatal kidney disease, Saira Ramasastry created the For Life Institute, an organization dedicated to the idea that food can be medicine. “We had to do something with this finding. [The child’s] doctors were amazed, and they called it miraculous. So we called researchers and scientists around the globe and found that there is a growing body of evidence that suggests—in the right circumstances—food can treat, prevent, and cure disease.” The For Life Institute is continuing this line of research. Saira hopes its work will push physicians to consider a care model that puts food on equal footing with medicine. “We need to think differently about health. Let's put food first. This isn't about choosing a salad over fast food. This is about food saving lives.”

Pictured Above: Saira Ramasastry, Managing Partner, Life Sciences Advisory

2. Increasing Health Care Engagement in Low-Income Communities

Why do 60 percent of Medicaid patients miss their clinic visits? This is the question Lisa Fitzpatrick hoped to answer when she moved from her cushy D.C. condo to the city’s poorest neighborhood. Proximity to a problem can teach you a lot about possible solutions; Lisa learned that to get low-income communities like hers engaged in health care, she needed to focus on three things: trauma, distrust, and low health literacy. “[I] realized I was approaching this with a judgmental mindset. I was asking, ‘Why won’t people engage in health care?’ And I should have been asking, ‘Why would they?’” Lisa’s new organization, Grapevine Health, works to foster trust within low-income communities. Building upon these personal relationships, the organization educates individuals and helps them engage in their own health care. 

Pictured Above: Lisa Fitzpatrick, Founder, Grapevine Health

3. Shifting from Granola and Yoga to Comprehensive, Evidence-Based Solutions

It’s not just patients who feel the impact of an unjust system. Every single day, a physician commits suicide—this is twice the rate of the general public. Alen Voskanian has experienced physician burnout as both a provider and a family member who lost his father in part due to a physician mistake made by a well-meaning doctor experiencing burnout. While there are many suggestions for how physicians should treat their burnout (e.g., yoga, meditation), these solutions don’t address burnout’s root causes. The focus of Alen’s work is just that—developing a multi-pronged, evidence-based approach to tackling the root causes of burnout. “With a crisis of this proportion, you'd think every health system would have a comprehensive, evidence-based plan in place. But, shockingly, that's not the case. Programs are piecemeal, and there's little evidence that they're effective.” Alen’s multi-year, physician-inclusive approach will pinpoint what works to help physicians across the nation.
Pictured Above (center): Alen Voskanian, Medical Director, Cedars-Sinai Medical Group

4. Putting the “Care” Back into Patient Care

Rushika Fernandopulle has made waves in primary care with his original patient care model at Iora Health. Iora Health rebuilt its care model by replacing transactions with authentic patient-provider relationships. “Our outcomes are better than almost every other practice in the country. We're reducing hospitalizations by 40 percent, ER visits in half, total spend by 15 percent. We're putting money actually back in people's pockets.” However, this is only the beginning of the change he hopes to make. “The [health care] system is all geared to serving its needs and not ours.” To shift from today’s system to the one Americans deserve, Rushika is building a consumer-based social movement to demand a system that truly serves the patient. “Let’s [start] with the patient, the consumer, the people, and build up.”
Pictured above: Rushika Fernandopulle, CEO, Iora Health

You can view the full session here:
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Posted by Emily Rubenstein on Jun 28, 2019 1:45 PM America/Denver