Colorado’s Health Into the Future By Kim Riley

Kim Riley Over the past year, Governor Hickenlooper’s office has partnered with Engaged Public, a Denver-based public policy firm, to orchestrate a public engagement campaign called TBD (To Be Determined) Colorado.  Throughout the state, 70 community meetings with over 1,200 participants were convened to discuss the most pressing issues facing Colorado’s future, including education, the state budget, transportation, health and the state workforce.

The results have been summarized in a report entitled The State of Health: Colorado’s Commitment to Become the Healthiest State  that features four specific health recommendations: 1) promoting prevention and wellness  2) expanding health care coverage access and capacity  3) improving health system integration and quality and 4) enhancing value and strengthening sustainability.  The report outlines a blueprint for meeting these recommendations and provides a description of measurable targets that will track progress over time.

Promoting prevention and wellness offers options to help individuals stay healthy and become healthier, such as increasing awareness about the importance of wellness, building individual engagement in healthy behaviors and encouraging personal responsibility.  Improved coordination between behavioral health and physical health providers is also recommended.

The second recommendation, to expand coverage, access and capacity addresses the need to ensure access to care for individuals when and where they need it. Proposals include expanding public and private health insurance coverage; expanding Colorado’s health workforce by enhancing education, training and employment pathways for mid-level non-physician providers, care coordinators and patient navigators; recruiting and retaining more primary care providers in under-served communities; and providing health services through telehealth, or long-distance internet-based provision of services.

The third recommendation to improve health system integration and quality is attained by eliminating barriers to better care and improving the way health services are provided to ensure more person-centered care. Options include expanded use of patient-centered medical homes, or medical hubs. Another mechanism entails access to State information and services through the Colorado Information Marketplace, a comprehensive database system that will provide consolidated health information data to the public, health providers and technology experts.

The final recommendation promotes strategies to enhance value and strengthen sustainability, or to develop financial incentives for healthcare providers to focus on quality and value of their care rather than volume.  Strategies along these lines include Medicaid cost containment, incentive-based payment reform and investment in Health Information Technology systems that create efficiency in delivery of health services.

Colorado is a state where citizens work collaboratively across disciplines and give priority to health initiatives.  We benefit from having abundant recreational opportunities and healthy lifestyle practices. The efforts described above build on these strengths and can help, as Governor Hickenlooper and partners implore, to enable us to become the healthiest state in the nation.

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