By KEN LEISER
A female patient was about to be discharged from CHI St. Joseph Regional Health Center in Bryan, Texas, but she had no place to go. Recognizing that she would require ongoing treatment at CHI St. Joseph, a hospital case manager contacted the health resource center to figure out what could be done for the woman.
"We were able to call on our members, find the type of support that she needed — including six weeks of a place to stay at our local community shelter," said Patricia Schoenemann, director of the Brazos Health Resource Center, a program of CHI St. Joseph. The health center is part of Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health.
Provisions were made to transport the patient to treatment. Because public transportation runs just five days a week, a local church pitched in to provide rides to weekend treatment appointments. Prescription medication assistance also was found.
Brazos Health Resource Center, located in the seven-county Brazos Valley in eastern Texas, is part of a statewide 211 information and referral network.
Schoenemann was one of two presenters in an April 18 webinar on the findings of University of California, San Francisco researchers who studied community resource referral platforms. Health care providers increasingly have turned to technology platforms that include electronic community resource directories and facilitate referrals to social service agencies to meet their patients' nonmedical needs. (Traditional social service listings were rarely kept up to date and did not lend themselves to effective tracking of referral outcomes.)
The research was commissioned by the Episcopal Health Foundation of Houston; St. David's Foundation in Austin, Texas; and Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas. The resulting 98-page Community Resource Referral Platforms: A Guide for Health Care Organizations is designed to assist safety net health care providers navigating the emerging market of technology-based platforms for community resource referrals.
The need for such a guide reflects the growing movement among health care organizations to refer patients to community-based social service providers. The health care sector requires accurate, accessible and up-to-date information about those services, as well as the ability to make electronic referrals, according to the guide.
"There are a number of technologies out there that are designed to help health care organizations streamline the process of referring patients to community resources to help address their unmet needs," said Yuri Cartier of the Social Interventions Research & Evaluation Network at UCSF, one of the researchers. The team evaluated nine data platforms.
The platforms have common elements including a searchable directory of organizations and social service agencies and a management system capable of sending referrals to community organizations and tracking outcomes.
Researchers interviewed representatives of 39 organizations that use the platforms. Most were in health care organizations.
Brazos Health Resource Center uses the CharityTracker platform, Schoenemann said. There are more than 1,000 networks using the CharityTracker platform across the U.S. (The other eight platforms reviewed in the guide were Aunt Bertha, CrossTx, Healthify, NowPow, One Degree, Pieces Iris, TAVConnect, and Unite Us.)
Authors made several recommendations in the guide, underscoring the benefits of successfully engaging community organizations from the beginning. By successful engagement, the authors stressed that buy-in and collaboration are easier when health care organizations "reach out to community-based partners prior to platform selection."
The authors recommended that those evaluating technology platforms for purchase compare costs and examine what already exists in the community in order to prevent duplication.
More information on the guide and the report findings can be found at https://sirenetwork.ucsf.edu/newsroom/events/siren-webinar-community-resource-referral-platforms-lessons-early-health-care.
Copyright © 2019 by the Catholic Health Association
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