One of the most transformative drivers of healthcare change in recent years has been the requirement that healthcare providers convert from pen-and-paper files to electronic medical records.

With this change, the sheer amount of population health data now available has made it possible for doctors, insurers and nonprofits to look at what the numbers say.  Healthcare philanthropy is similarly becoming more data-driven, yielding some promising trends for the year ahead, particularly for Louisiana:

1. Funders will increase investments in the workforce.

The data on the current state of our healthcare workforce is alarming.  In the coming years, Louisiana (along with the rest of the nation) will experience a critical shortage of healthcare staff unless we take action and invest in the next generation of health professionals.

Of particular concern for Louisiana are shortages in nurses, nurse practitioners and mental health providers, particularly in rural areas.

Nationally, government agencies like Health and Human Services are investing in healthcare workforce pipelines, with a particular emphasis on diversity.  Private funders are increasingly seeking programs to invest in.

In late 2018, the Blue Cross Foundation issued an Request for Proposals for collective impact grants specifically focused on addressing shortages in the healthcare workforce.  Later in January, we’ll announce our first grant in this category, so stay tuned.  (BTW, the next deadline for applications is March 1.)

2. Investments in social determinants of health will grow significantly.

Traditional healthcare businesses, national foundations and organizations of all types and sizes are investing millions in the social determinants of health. With a $100 million investment announced just last week, we believe investments in addressing the social determinants of health will continue to grow rapidly.

The research behind health rankings draws important ties between education and quality of life factors and the health outcomes they produce.  Deep dives into systemic inequities and their impact in healthcare delivery have also yielded stunning results.

For example, in Louisiana, people of color continue to be 1.5 to 4 times as likely to experience negative outcomes in health status and educational achievement — regardless of income.

For all these reasons funders, including the Blue Cross Foundation, will continue to make sizable investments in improving health outcomes through upstream factors that help raise a healthier generation of young people with better outcomes.

3. Measurement will be more important than ever.

As health data drives more decisions, outcomes measurement will be more important than ever.  Those nonprofits who are able to capture data on the effectiveness of their programs and draw meaningful conclusions will have a competitive advantage in attracting funding, particularly as corporate philanthropy becomes more selective and targeted.

What are your thoughts on trends in our state’s health? And where health philanthropy can support progress?  We want to hear from you — these kinds of conversations often influence our next steps!

– Michael Tipton
BCBSLA Foundation President and Head of Community Relations