Funder: The Commonwealth Fund, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The SCAN Foundation

Author: Mark Humowiecki, Teagan Kuruna, Rebecca Sax, and Margaret Hawthorne, National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs; Allison Hamblin and Stefanie Turner, Center for Health Care Strategies; Kedar Mate, Cory Sevin, and Kerri Cullen, Institute for Healthcare Improvement

December 2018 |


The US spends more on health care than any other industrialized nation, with much of that spending concentrated on a small percentage of the population for whom behavioral health and social needs are major drivers of poor health outcomes. In response, more and more states, health plans, and provider organizations are pursuing innovative care models for these high-need patients. The emerging field of complex care offers the potential to improve the health and well-being of this relatively small, heterogeneous group of individuals and keep them from cycling through fragmented care that fails to fully address their needs.

Advancing the nascent complex care field to effectively address root causes of poor health, however, cannot be achieved by individual efforts. Doing so requires a coordinated effort across many organizations, communities, and states to align common goals.

The Blueprint for Complex Care, a joint project of the National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs, the Center for Health Care Strategies, and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, provides a strategic plan to support these multidisciplinary innovations and accelerate opportunities to improve care for individuals with complex health and social needs. In developing the Blueprint for Complex Care, the authors listened to experts and frontline stakeholders — including consumers, providers, administrators, executives, and more — to outline the goals, needs, and priorities of the complex care movement. The resulting report assesses the current state of the field and outlines actionable recommendations to help the field reach its full potential for improving care delivery for the nation’s most vulnerable patients.

Effective complex care models transcend boundaries across sectors, fields, and professions and provide care that is: person-centered, equitable, cross-sector, team-based, and data-driven.

The Blueprint for Complex Care, made possible through The Commonwealth Fund, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and The SCAN Foundation, aims to guide the maturing field and provide a clear path for achieving an ambitious set of goals. It seeks not to dictate what the field should look like, but rather to facilitate a conversation among committed stakeholders to ultimately build a set of practices and knowledge that lead to improved lives for people with the most complex needs.

Become a Complex Care Champion

Thirty leading organizations in health care innovation, policy, and delivery from across the country have endorsed the Blueprint for Complex Care, thereby confirming their support as Complex Care Champions to play a role in advancing the field. We encourage you to become a Complex Care Champion and help build the field. Learn more and sign up for updates »