Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Physicians Foundation Helps Poor Find Social Services

For the poor always ye have with you.

John 12:8

December 8, 2011 - 'Tis the season to turn our thoughts to the poor, and what we can do for them, short of massive government welfare programs.

These thoughts on the poor have not escaped the attention of John Commins, an editor of HealthLeaders Media. He wrote a piece today called, “Primary Physicians Link Social Barriers to Poor Health." In it, he cited an online survey of 1,000 primary care physicians, including 310 pediatricians, on behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The survey found that:

• 85% of physicians say unmet social needs are directly leading to worse health for all Americans.

• 85% of physicians say patients' social needs are as important to address as their medical conditions. This is especially true for physicians (or 95%) serving patients in low-income, urban communities.

• 76% of physicians want the healthcare system to cover the costs associated with connecting patients to services that meet their social needs if a physician deems it important for overall health.

• Only 20% of physicians feel confident or very confident in their ability to address their patients' unmet social needs.

• Physicians said that if they had the power to write prescriptions to address social needs(italics mine) these would represent 1 out of every 7 prescriptions they write— or an average of 26 additional prescriptions per week.

These findings will come as no surprise to the Physicians Foundation, a charitable 501C3 organization representing at least 500,000 physicians in state medical societies.

On May 13, 2011, I wrote the following blog, which I reprint in full, on a $1 million grant to Health Leaders, Inc, addressing to the very needs of the poor the survey describes, especially the bit about what physicians would do if they had the power “to write prescriptions to address social needs.”

In 22 pediatric and prenatal clinics, newborn nurseries, emergency rooms, and community health centers in six cities across the U.S., physicians now have that power – a power that is likely to spread as Health Leads expands to other cities across the land, thanks to generosity of the Physicians Foundation and the physicians it represents.

May 11, 2011 Medinnovation Blog

The Physicians Foundation Awards $1 Million Grant to Health Leads

Yesterday the Physicians Foundation, a charitable organization representing physicians in state medical societies nationwide, put its money where its heart is.

The Foundation awarded a $1 million grant to Health Leads, a Boston non-profit to help it expand from its current base of six cities to other locales across the land.

The Physician Foundation-Health Leads collaboration is a natural partnership. Both the Physicians Foundation and Health Leads are organizations who think “outside the box” to help vulnerable citizens find resources outside the mainstream of care.

Physicians often find themselves trapped in a box, unable to help patients find food for their stomachs, heat for their homes, transport to medical facilities, jobs to supply the money to pay for care, decent homes in safe neighborhoods. These basics are simply beyond the reach of the current health system or the current reforms designed to improve care.

Health Leads works in 22 pediatric and prenatal clinics, newborn nurseries, emergency rooms, and community health centers in six cities across the U.S. Last year, Health Leads trained and deployed 660 college volunteers to connect nearly 6,000 low-income patients and their families to the resources they need to be healthy. By providing a transformative experience for hundreds of college volunteers, Health Leads is producing a pipeline of new leaders who will have both the conviction and the skills to transform health care from the bottom-up.

How does Health Leads make this transformation possible ?

• One, by giving doctors the power to “prescribe” food, shelter, job training, and transportation by writing prescriptions to find these resources.

• Two, by recruiting college volunteers to serve at Health Desks in various health care settings to direct patients and families to community resources, in the process serving as a training ground for health careers and as a sort of domestic Peace Corps.

In the hospitals and health centers where Health Leads operates, doctors can “prescribe” food, housing, or other critical resources—just as they would medication. Patients take their prescriptions to the clinic waiting room, where Health Leads’ college volunteers are ready to connect them to these resources. Nearly 60 percent of Health Leads patients secure at least one critical resource – receive food, get their heat turned back on, find a job – within 90 days of getting their “prescription.” All patients receive ongoing follow-up until their needs are met.

“As we continue to identify new ways to enhance healthcare delivery, we are extremely proud to fund the ongoing efforts of Health Leads,” said Dr. Walker Ray, Vice President of The Physicians Foundation and Chair of the Research Committee. “In a system that is massively overburdened by strained resources, innovative models that foster collaboration between college volunteers and physicians can have real impact on our nation’s healthcare.”

The Physicians Foundation’s funding will help Health Leads expand its operational capabilities, allowing the organization to serve significantly more patients. By developing an information technology infrastructure to enhance tracking of patient outcomes and by hiring additional program managers and staff, Health Leads will be able to deepen engagement with physicians and clinic partners.

“Health Leads is grateful for the assistance of The Physicians Foundation in helping us to build the capacity we need to scale our program model over the next four years. Since we received their funding, we have been able to serve more than 2,600 patients, putting us on track for an increase of more than 60 percent over last year,” said Rebecca Onie, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Health Leads.

“We have also launched discussions to build an evaluation partnership with the Mayo Clinic Center and rolled out a new client database to all of our sites that will enable us to better track and report client outcomes. The Foundation's support has been invaluable in helping us make significant progress on these strategic goals."

Tweet: The Physicians Foundation, a doctor organization, has awarded a $1 million to Health Leads, to help patients find food, housing, & jobs.


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