What is complex care?

Complex care is a person-centered approach to address the needs of people who experience combinations of medical, behavioral health, and social challenges that result in extreme patterns of healthcare utilization and cost.

A small number of individuals drive much of the cost of healthcare in the United States. Although we spend a tremendous amount on these individuals—many of whom have a combination of chronic illness, behavioral health conditions, and multiple social needs—it has not made them healthy or well.

To make real changes for these patients, we must deliver care differently. Care must be flexible, coordinated, and centered on individuals’ needs, goals, and circumstances. This requires an interdisciplinary approach that brings together traditionally siloed areas. Read more about complex care.

Who are individuals with complex health and social needs?

No single definition encompasses all individuals with complex health and social needs, but many have several chronic and comorbid diagnoses and face social barriers to care including isolation, homelessness, lack of transportation, and unsafe living conditions. These individuals tend to experience poor outcomes despite substantial emergency care or inpatient services. Read more about individuals with complex health and social needs.

What is the National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs?

The National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs, launched in 2016, aims to improve outcomes for individuals with complex medical, behavioral, and social needs. It works to coalesce a new field of healthcare by bringing together a broad range of clinicians, researchers, policymakers, and consumers who are developing, testing, and scaling new models of team-based, integrated care. The Center and its staff collaborate with other experts across the nation to develop best practices, inform policy, and foster an engaged and accessible community to develop this work and teach it to others.

Who funds the National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs?

The National Center is funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and AARP. The National Center is an initiative of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers.

What is the Blueprint for Complex Care?

The Blueprint for Complex Care is a joint project of the National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs, the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS), and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). It is a national framework for coordinating the complex care community.

The Blueprint for Complex Care aims to drive a collective strategy for the field as a whole, bringing together the ongoing efforts of hundreds of discrete programs into a cohesive and singularly identifiable field of practice. It encompasses shared language, priorities, and recommendations for all organizations that will contribute to its development. Learn more about the Blueprint for Complex Care.

How is information about treating people with complex health and social needs being shared with students training in the healthcare workforce?

The Interprofessional Student Hotspotting Learning Collaborative is a program held annually that trains interdisciplinary teams of professional students from schools around the country to learn to work with complex medical and social needs using a person-centered approach. The program is intended to educate and provide mentorship for the next generation of healthcare professionals.

How will the movement toward payment and delivery reforms in the United States healthcare system affect individuals with complex health and social needs?

The U.S. healthcare system is shifting the way providers and hospitals are compensated for care, with an increased focus placed on quality and outcomes. This new way of paying for care will put more focus on achieving good outcomes for individuals with complex health and social needs by incentivizing collaborative approaches to caring for these consumers, including addressing their social needs.