As we are evaluating each opportunity, we will be looking at financial return on investment but most importantly we will be looking at what type of social return we can see.
Keep in mind that the people who benefit from this don’t have to be Kaiser Permanente members. This is a true community investment in our communities. Part of the social return that you would look at would include things such as hospitalization rates, well-being rate of people participating. Healthcare costs. We will be looking at all of those as part of the social return. Again, it will be on a case by case basis.
HLM: When does this start?
Choucair: For the past year we've been spending a lot of time with community leaders across the country identifying those opportunities. We are in the vetting process now for a couple. I can't tell you exactly when but very soon we will be able to have our first investment announced.
HLM: How far along before you'll know if this investment is having the desired effect, and what metrics will you use to make that determination?
Choucair: It will be, again, on a case-by-case basis. Every investment will have a set of financial and social metrics that we will be tracking and we will be able to evaluate on a regular basis if those investments are paying off from a social perspective the same way as we will be able to track from a financial perspective.
HLM: How far can a hospital go to address social issues "beyond hospital walls?"
Choucair: We don’t do these things by ourselves. We are not going to be running housing developments. We will be partnering with the right people who do this as their core business.
What is important to remember is that as we think about how we meet the needs of our communities, we look at their needs that go above and beyond their healthcare needs. At the end of the day, what impacts your health is the community that you live in. It's how you live. It's where you work and play. If we are going to be truly focusing on optimizing the health and well-being of our members and our communities, we have to think about the conditions for health of equity in the communities where these folks live.
John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders.