CHICAGO – July 22, 2020) – As an accomplished emergency room physician, Dr. Jeffrey E. Sterling witnessed firsthand the outcomes of a healthcare system that’s been historically reactionary—responding to patients only after an illness has progressed from mere symptoms, to a crisis. But to his credit, and true to the oath of his profession, Sterling is one physician who actually took action and did something about it. In January of this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the U.S. and around the world, he founded and successfully established Sterling Initiatives Managed Preventive Care Organization (SIMPCO), America’s first such entity, and six months in its direction is clear.
“We are looking to boldly change the paradigm of care,” Dr. Sterling states. “Information is power, and when people truly know better, they do better. Rather than merely treating people once they’re sick, and they enter the healthcare system at that point, SIMPCO’s goal in Illinois is to set the standard for prevention and health promotion, and to embrace the fact that in most instances, usually only a few simple measures can prevent disease. I believe that we can change that paradigm forever. If we refocus and reset, the post-COVID-19 ‘new normal’ that everyone’s talking about can be disease prevention for us and our families, throughout our communities.”
A Novel Concept
Conceived to provide patient solutions addressing healthcare access, and other issues across the state of Illinois, SIMPCO stands committed to achieving transformative healthcare—or what their team terms “protective public health”—targeted to disproportionately impacted communities. This means bettering the health of Americans beyond just improved access, but also by modernizing healthcare delivery and effectively educating people about proven risk reduction and disease prevention techniques.
The cornerstone of SIMPCO’s approach to managed care is a concerted emphasis on healthcare best practices—namely teaching self-care strategies to people long before they ever become patients. SIMPCO further works to complement the role of managed care organizations (MCOs) throughout Illinois in addressing the healthcare needs of Medicaid patients. It’s a concept that at once seems logical, yes, but its practical implementation is woefully long overdue, and SIMPCO plans to get it done.
The reasons are myriad, especially when considering some of the many disparities negatively impacting the health and longevity of African Americans. In many cases these can certainly be boiled down to racism and discriminatory practices, but most often the roots run much deeper. With the terrible COVID-19 pandemic now ravaging the U.S. for example, African Americans are both contracting the illness and dying from it at twice the rate to be expected, proportionate to the population.
Similarly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Health Disparities and Inequalities Report, African Americans are afflicted with diabetes at nearly twice the rate of white adults, black women die in childbirth at twice the rate of white women and a black person’s life expectancy is three years shorter than that of the average white person. The CDC’s research further reveals that between 2007 and 2010, black women posted the country’s highest rates of obesity, African American adults suffered the highest rates of high blood pressure, the highest death numbers from heart disease and stroke and black expectant mothers suffer infant mortality rates twice those of white women.
SIMPCO’s approach empowers individuals and communities to counter these hazards, changing habits long term and channeling resources to help prevent premature disease and death. Improving health outcomes for individuals and populations requires more than just access to medical care, however. It encompasses behavioral health, as well as social, environmental and educational factors, i.e. the “social determinants” of health. SIMPCO mandates that each participant is engaged quarterly, at minimum, to ensure that they receive support, counseling and/or medical referrals as needed.
This tailored method of ongoing care—coupled with the individual’s efforts—addresses both the behavioral and medical health dilemmas consistently, resolving the access issue facing healthcare deserts and rural populations while delivering services in a culturally competent and sensitive manner. And the result? A heightened standard that increases compliance with medical dictates, enhances outcomes and, ultimately, reduces the cost of care. Carol Adams, Ph.D., SIMPCO’s chief community engagement officer, echoes this sentiment.
“At SIMPCO, our vision is to be the foundation of a groundbreaking healthcare solution supporting Medicaid and Medicare customers, and to seed enrollment into the appropriate managed care organizations throughout the state of Illinois,” states Dr. Adams. “Providing access to quality healthcare is an absolute necessity to eliminate debilitating medical disparities. Of equal importance to us, however, is heightened opportunities for our gifted pool of professionals to design and implement viable strategies and transformational policies. SIMPCO ably addresses these mandates, while delivering efficiencies and implementing sustainable, systemic change.”