Clinic Combats Correlation Between Poverty and Chronic Health Issues

December 2—According to a recent news report, enterprising non-profits and medical providers are looking into providing more thorough healthcare by not only addressing patients’ immediate medical needs, but by improving their quality of life at home. For many years now, studies linking poverty to increased health risks have raised awareness of the issue, but many healthcare providers have no means to address it.

Dr. Megan Tschudy, assistant medical director at the Harriet Lane Clinic in Baltimore, a part of the John Hopkins Children’s Center, decided to tackle the issue. She noted that there were parts of her patients’ lives that were affecting their health more than what happened while they were at her clinic. Of the child and adolescent patients seen by the clinic each year, 94 percent are from low-income homes and rely on public insurance. She decided to partner with a Boston area non-profit to address the health of her patients’ homes in order to prevent more serious chronic health issues and complications that would burden both the patient and the healthcare system.

For just over a 20 years the non-profit, Health Leads, has been working with clinics such as Dr. Tschudy’s to connect patients with volunteers who refer them to a full spectrum of community resources. Health Leads’ volunteers work with patients who rely on home energy to keep medication cold or life-saving equipment running by referring them to LIHEAP and utility assistance programs. Volunteers also refer patients and their families to programs that can help weatherize their homes, as well as programs that can increase food security and cover transportation needs. These volunteers then perform several follow-ups with each patient to ensure that their needs are being addressed.

Insurance companies have also taken notice of the relationship between home health and members’ health. Kaiser Permanente, an integrated insurance company and healthcare provider in Southern California, has recently created a call center that uses Health Leads’ technology to reach out to high-cost patients. Its goal is to reach out to 5,000 patients. Next year Kaiser Permanente hopes to reach out to 75,000.

Sources: News reports