Connecting Patients to Community Resources

Question: We are developing a program to screen low-income patients for social needs and to refer persons identified as having unmet needs to community services. Can these activities be reported as community benefit?

Recommendation: We recommend reporting the expense of screening for health-related social needs and follow-up referrals as community benefit under Category A3: Health Care Support Services when all of the following are met:

  • Community health need has been established (for example, housing and food security issues are present in community),
  • Activities are above and beyond the standard practice of discharge planning, and
  • The organization operates the program in collaboration with other providers and agencies.

If these criteria are met, the following expenses could be reported::

  • Staff time for the development of policies, procedures, and agreements with referral partners,
  • Staff training
  • Staff time for screening and referral activities, beyond standard activities,
  • Technology used to facilitate screening, record findings, and make and manage referrals (excluding routine medical records).

(Be careful not to double-count with community benefit operations or any other reported community benefit expenses.)

Do not report screening for health-related social needs and follow-up referrals when:

  • The activity is part of standard discharge planning,
  • The activity is provided primarily to financially benefit the health care organization, such as to avoid re-hospitalization penalties, earn reimbursement incentives, or reduce Medicaid or financial assistance losses,
  • The activity is limited to a subgroup of patients for which the organization bears financial risk, such as those that are part of the health care organization’s ACO/population health management program, or
  • The program excludes uninsured or Medicaid-covered persons.

(Updated December 2023)

Please Take Note: The information provided does not constitute legal or tax advice. The material is provided for informational/educational purposes only. Please consult with counsel regarding your organization's particular circumstances.