In preparation for the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, we are once again reminded about the inequities lurking in healthcare service delivery.  Numerous studies from Health Affairs to Forbes cite the lack of parity between services rendered and outcomes for individuals of different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic status.  In other words, while so much has changed…so many things remain the same.

For the good news, we have the ability to change this phenomenon.  And, it’s in plain sight, at the tip of our fingertips.  Collaboration – amongst payers, providers, employers, third party vendors and most importantly, patients – is the key.

Engagements are under way to redesign personal and electronic health records for improved interoperability and increased utilization.  Major advances are being made with respect to the development of apps and gadgets for personal data capture, analysis and sharing.  And while these are positive steps in a long journey, what value does this information have in silo?  Definitely not as much, so it is encouraging to learn about the steps that Dr. Dirk Stanley has taken to do something about it.  Though his approach does not engage patients directly, he is employing low tech – a wiki – to share order sets with other providers – in order to deliver high quality, safe, affordable care.

And as individual provider collaboration continues to advance, so too does the flow of communication between providers and payers.  As noted by the announcement of 100+ new ACOs, these groups are finding new ways to manage cohorts of patients successfully.  While creativity and innovation have spurred change across provider, payer, vendor and government processes and technology, the commencement of a second inauguration will prove telling in the continuing healthcare evolution.

With growing success in management of chronic disease for the Medicare population, is it not time to stretch collaboration to our communities in order to address true population health management for the uninsured and Medicaid enrollees?  By enlarging the scope of determinants from a medical home to a medical neighborhood, two separate projects have recently been announced by the Department of Health & Human services.  While the American Academy of Family Physicians subsidiary, TransforMED, will work with VHA hospitals and affiliated primary care & specialty practice physician groups, Rutgers University will be working with low income individuals to help them navigate social assistance and identify a medical home.

As mentioned previously, keeping healthy is the most important job of one’s life.  And with access to a connected system of care, individuals can experience not only improved care, but better health – which is nothing less than a dream for all.