HealthPartners has plenty of data to show if its patients are healthy, but no clue whether they also are happy.
At least not yet.
The Bloomington-based provider of health care and insurance is launching a new annual survey of people’s well-being, because studies suggest that personal satisfaction can promote better health and less need for health care.
That’s not to say that positive well-being is a requirement for good health, or vice versa, said Dr. Thomas Kottke, a cardiologist recently named as HealthPartners’ medical director for well-being. “There are folks, quadriplegic with broken necks, who have very high levels of well-being.”
But HealthPartners nonetheless sees dividends down the road if it can both assess and improve the well-being of the people it serves.
Starting this year, the organization will survey 5,000 of its patients and members on its homegrown definition of well-being, which includes six components: emotional functioning, physical functioning, career satisfaction, adequacy of financial resources, social/interpersonal relations, community support, and meaning and purpose.
HealthPartners will then aggregate the results and compare whether the sense of well-being in the community improves each year. The organization also hopes to break down survey results by geographic or racial group to see if there are disparities.
Lastly, the well-being results will be compared with HealthPartners’ clinical data on whether patients adopt healthy habits, such as exercising and refraining from smoking, or whether they have disabilities or chronic diseases.
Knowing how a sense of well-being affects actual health and health habits will be meaningful.
Clinicians “need to think beyond just, ‘Gee, I treated everybody and everything today and somebody else has to figure out ... if people actually feel better,’ ” Kottke said.
HealthPartners might not be able to affect well-being as easily as it can affect heart problems with medication or surgery. But step one is knowing which elements of well-being are most challenging.
“We can’t control them,” Kottke said, “but we can influence them.”