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HealthPartners Creates New Way to Measure Health and Well-Being

New research validates the health systems’ composite metric, paving way for holistic improvement to care and coverage


May 22, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – There’s an emerging way to measure health and well-being and it addresses three questions: How healthy are we? How healthy are we likely to be in the future? And how do we feel about our lives overall?

While they sound simple, these questions are shorthand for a complex methodology recently published in American Journal of Managed Care that calculates composite metrics based on people’s current health, future health and life satisfaction. And the answers may hold profound insight for improving health and well-being.

These summary measures were developed by HealthPartners, the nation’s largest consumer-governed, nonprofit health organization. HealthPartners leaders say the advanced metric could help it and other health care organizations tailor care and coverage to better address their patients and members’ most pressing health issues.

“With a mission to improve health and well-being it’s important to have a way to measure our progress,” said Andrea Walsh, president and CEO of HealthPartners. “This measure provides us with insights we can use to improve care, coverage and health support for those we serve.”

Health and Well-being: 3-in-1

Using data from more than 750,000 people enrolled in its health plan between July 1, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2016, lead researcher Thomas Kottke, MD, and colleagues ran the numbers through its newly-minted three-part measure.

The first part of the summary measures of health and well-being analyzed the current health of its population using a metric known as disability-adjusted life years. This quantifies burden of disease within a specific population.

The second part of the well-being equation analyzed seven behaviors that have major impacts on future health of its health plan members. The behaviors are physical activity, diet, tobacco use, moderate alcohol consumption, good sleep, healthy thinking, and preventive care.

The third part examined self-reported well-being scores from a survey of its members that addressed life satisfaction. Higher life satisfaction scores are associated with lower health care and pharmacy costs, and higher productivity.

The findings, recently published in the American Journal of Managed Care showed that 44 percent of the loss in current health scores among its members was attributable to bone, joint and muscle; mental health; and neurological issues. These burdens, including back pain, depression and migraines, are widespread and chronic but also preventable and treatable with lifestyle and well-being interventions. In addition, 42 percent of HealthPartners’ members reported high levels of well-being and 14 percent of members reported low levels of well-being.

Combining these three elements, Kottke says, provides clearer understanding of their patients and members’ health – and points to areas of potential intervention and improvement.

HealthPartners has already taken steps to address these burdens. The company has altered its approach to pain management, integrating orthopedics, mental health and neurology specialists into one cohesive team, offering a more holistic approach to caring for patients with chronic pain.

A history of insights innovation

The summary measures of health and well-being are not the only pioneering metrics that HealthPartners developed. In 2012, the National Quality Forum endorsed HealthPartners’ measurement approach for Total Cost of Care, a novel measure of health care affordability. It was re-reviewed and once again endorsed for use in 2017. The measures are now used by more than 300 organizations across the US and are available for health care organizations to use at no cost.

HealthPartners expects the summary measures of health and well-being to be equally effective at improving care and coverage.

“We need to move beyond just thinking of health as episodic, reactive and limited to what happens in hospitals and clinics,” said Walsh. “This measure will help guide us as we refine and discover new ways to impact the overall health and well-being of people so they can live a better life.”

About HealthPartners

HealthPartners is a consumer-governed, non-profit health care organization with a mission to improve health and well-being in partnership with members, patients and the community. For more information, visit

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