Loneliness is a Quality Issue

June 5, 2023 · Andy Reynolds

NCQA quality measures and evaluation programs will reflect the National Strategy to Advance Social Connection that Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murphy announced in May.

Our ongoing work to develop next generation quality measurement and accreditation aligns with Dr. Murphy’s:

  • Announcement that loneliness is a public health crisis.
  • Call to Mobilize the Health Sector to advance social connection.

Social connection is an umbrella term referring to how people relate to each other—including whether they feel lonely or socially supported.

Short and Long-Term Quality Implications

EVALUATION SERVICES

This year, we will add social connection as a new standards category for NCQA Long-Term Services and Supports Distinction for Health Plans.

Social connection will augment the current list of social needs we assess for LTSS Distinction:

  • Financial stability.
  • Food insecurity.
  • Housing stability.
  • Access to transportation.
  • Interpersonal safety.

We anticipate the number of health plans that hold LTSS Distinction will grow as health effects of loneliness and other social determinants that are the focus of our LTSS program become better known.

LTSS Distinction and its sister program, Accreditation of Case Management for LTSS, launched in 2016.

HEDIS MEASURES

We are considering a new social connection measure for HEDIS.

That measure would focus on capturing screening and intervention data on people experiencing loneliness, social isolation or poor social support.

The details of the measure we’re considering align with Gravity Project standards. That’s important because we use HEDIS measures to reflect consensus understanding of what good care is.

Our work on a new social connection measure is ongoing. Look for your chance to tell us what you think during a HEDIS public comment period in Spring 2024.

The Big Picture: Social Connection and Public Health

The Surgeon General’s report highlights:

  • 1 in 5 Americans report feeling lonely or socially isolated.
  • Social connection is important to physical and mental health.
  • Social connection affects community success and public health.

The Surgeon General’s emphasis on social connection is an invitation for people and groups to build meaningful ties with others.

It’s gratifying to know we’re working on things the Surgeon General says matter, especially considering we’ve been doing that work several ways for years.

 

 

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