Question: Can hospitals report as community benefit programs that connect patients to resources in the community, like Health Leads? As more and more organizations focus on the social determinants of health, we are identifying workforce capacity to help patients connect to affordable housing, food security, and employment. Does this count as community benefit if it for our patients, but does go above and beyond clinical care?
Recommendation: Health Leads is a program used by healthcare providers to screen low-income families for basic needs such as food and heat that can affect their health and that connects them to community resources that meet those needs. We recommend that the costs associated with Health Leads be reported as community health improvement in the following circumstances:
Patients/individuals are referred for these services whether or not they are part of a population for which the organization bears financial risk (such as an ACO), and regardless of their insurance status. We also recommend that the hospital or healthcare organization sponsoring the Health Leads program identify needs associated with social determinants in their needs assessment/implementation strategy and indicate that Health Leads is part of a strategy to address those needs. The case is even stronger if the hospital or healthcare organization makes these services available to community members outside its patient population, such patients of an unaffiliated community clinic.