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Whole Person Service: A Journey to a Healthy Community – Part 1

This blog is part 1 in a series focused on whole person care. Continue reading the series with part 2 and part 3.

Whole Person Service: a philosophy and strategy that is simultaneously aspirational and absolutely critical — particularly now, in the midst of a global health pandemic whose impact goes beyond only healthcare. While it is understood theoretically that a person’s well-being involves more than a single point-in-time treatment or response, clearly something isn’t working.

Healthcare costs keep rising, especially for the uninsured and needy; the homeless crisis shows no signs of improvement; addiction issues such as the opioid crisis continue to worsen. At the same time, there is no indication that the people most in need generally are getting “healthier” or that their quality of life in terms of self-sufficiency is improving.

That’s why the time has come for true Whole Person Service — a holistic view of a person’s medical, mental, behavioral and socioeconomic well-being. It’s a big topic and focus area of Gainwell Technologies, and we’d like to explore it with you in our blog series, “Whole Person Service: A journey to a healthy community.” Welcome to our first installment, where we’ll set the stage for the possibilities achievable through Whole Person Service.

Whole Person Service not only addresses the recipient’s immediate needs but also looks ahead to longer-term results, with an emphasis on improving and sustaining the individual’s self-sufficiency. Addressing today’s hunger is important, but having a meaningful job tomorrow and feeling self-respect is life changing.  Getting out of the cold weather today is important, but having long-term, stable housing and enabling your children to go to school is life changing for your entire family.

So, we begin to see how Whole Person Service can affect not only individuals and their families but can also support the powerful, inspiring concept — and reality — of creating self-sufficient communities.  In other words, Whole Person Service not only helps an individual become self-sufficient but conserves resources that in turn can be applied to the community.

Connecting the dots in health and human services                    

Exactly what does Whole Person Service encompass? Well, in health and human services (HHS), it should address basic needs that are so essential for one’s sense of well-being, stability, purpose, confidence and pride. These include healthcare, food and nutrition, age-based services (such as childcare, foster care and adult services), housing, and certain immigrant and refugee services.

Numerous valuable federal government programs — including Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) among others — are available to provide these vital services. Going beyond health and human services, WPS could extend into education, unemployment and criminal justice. The key is to enable a holistic view and act on it.

The Whole Person Service undertaking is ambitious and won’t be easy. It calls for a change in policies from the Federal level to states and then down to local governments. It will all come down to enhanced data sharing, with the proper application of privacy laws, that removes silos between organizations and services.

Coordination and collaboration across agencies will be critical, and invaluable, to ensure data consistency, enhance case management and improve the quality of care. Access to an individual’s relevant information can provide a whole person view, reduce duplication and enable benefits and services to be delivered more efficiently and effectively.

A strategic and holistic approach

Reaching the state of Whole Person Service maturity is a process with several levels and focus areas. Gainwell’s approach to helping our clients achieve this is through incremental business transformation and solution modernization with a focus on service excellence, productivity and compliance.

Gainwell’s approach to achieving Whole Person Service is partially viewed through the lens of our “seamless eligibility” service, which emphasizes three “Es”:

  • Experience — Create a positive experience for recipients and employees, with tools and resources that are easily accessible, easy to use, streamlined and responsive
  • Efficiency — Achieve cost efficiency through more streamlined program administration, enhanced employee productivity, regulatory compliance, and more accurate and complete information
  • Effectiveness — Contribute to measurable improvements in recipient well-being as part of the objective of realizing the promises and possibilities of whole person care

The process begins with HHS agencies knowing how to access and share the data they need while navigating and meeting all privacy and data security requirements. This is the first critical step in creating a whole person view. And with this data sharing, coordination and collaboration can begin. Beyond the first step, Gainwell’s health and human services analytics can help you move up the maturity level. We will discuss that in an upcoming blog in the series.

Whole Person Service is an exciting arena that can create a new mission and opportunity to serve for agencies. Through effective programs and services, we can do more than only address recipients’ immediate needs; we can help them improve their circumstances in more ways — and achieve and sustain the self-sufficiency they need to restore their pride and overall well-being.

About the authors

Chris Van Vlack is a regional general manager at Gainwell Technologies. He has more than 25 years of commercial and public sector health and human services experience. Chris is currently leveraging his experience to help Gainwell develop new innovative strategies that will help transform the way in which recipients of the HHS programs are engaged and served through State and Local agencies. The goal of this work is to improve the overall recipient experience and contribute to improving their circumstances. 

Dawn Wilder is an account general manager at Gainwell Technologies. She has more than 30 years of public sector health and human services experience. Having observed service delivery at the ground level through years of human services consulting, Dawn is passionate about the need to move to a whole person, whole family, whole community service model.