“The places where people live, learn, work, and play”, known as the social determinants of health (SDOH), have been estimated to contribute from 40%-60% of an individual’s health outcomes. For some time it has been known that community health workers (CHWs) play a significant role in improving patient outcomes and reducing the cost of care within a patient population. In fact, a report published by Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Health, in 2016, showed how targeted CHW programs achieved returns on investment ranging from $2.28 to $4.80 for every dollar spent. Due to such studies, insurers, managed care organizations (MCOs) and other large health institutions are placing a greater emphasis on SDOH and many have begun to manage them more robustly.
Focusing on Social Determinants of Health
SUNY Downstate Medical is one such organization. They are taking action on the fact that addressing the social determinants of health leads to better health outcomes in vulnerable populations and reduces medical spend. Because of this, a team at their College of Health Related Professions, led by Dr. Margaret Kaplan and Sarah-Lee Lewis have started a program to better prepare a future wave of healthcare workers in New York City to address the social determinants of health.
Supported by the New York State Department of Health under Grant Number C31990GG, the team at Downstate laid out several goals in their work to train new community health workers:
- To prepare competent Community Health Workers.
- To assist CHW students in identifying and addressing the social determinants of health affecting individual clients.
- To provide CHWs with skill training in documentation and utilizing computer software for meaningful use in the field.
- To enhance the CHW student’s ability to connect client’s needs with community-based resources.
A critical component to meeting these goals, according to Sarah-Lee Lewis, is to train the students on industry-leading software that can help address the social determinants of health. She wrote:
"The community health worker’s role in the medical team is centered around the social determinants of health. Therefore it is essential for students to be able to systematically identify and approach those factors. In choosing a particular platform to meet this gap in our education program, it was essential that the program would be able to work cohesively with the Community Health Worker’s scope of practice in addressing social determinants of health."
Using Healthify to Identify SDOH
In their search for a software platform to be built into their educational programming, Sarah-Lee wrote that their administrators saw a need for software that would assist students in identifying and approaching solutions for inadequacies in the social determinants of health of their clients. After much research, the SUNY team identified Healthify’s platform as the solution to meet the needs of their administrators. Additionally, the decision-makers were excited that Healthify was extremely optimistic about expanding the scope of the company’s practice by implementing a version of their software into our education program.
The intuitive nature of Healthify’s cloud-based technology is no accident. Healthify was founded by former community health workers who faced the same challenges most CHWs endure when trying to connect at-risk individuals with the support services they need. Whether a patient needs food or housing services, child-care support, job training, emergency healthcare services, or any other number of services that fall outside the clinical healthcare landscape, it is often the responsibility of community health workers to help ensure patients can access these services.
Healthify Helps Close the Care Loop
Healthify Teams Up With Downstate
As a company built on the premise that better health outcomes can be achieved by equipping CHWs with tools to operate at the top of their licenses, Healthify jumped at the opportunity to work with the team at Downstate in their CHW education and training program. Through Healthify’s platform, the students will learn to correctly identify an individual’s social needs, find resources in the community that can help, and accurately coordinate care with those organizations to “close-the-loop” on the social service referrals being made.
Adapting Healthify’s software tools for educational purposes was out of the company’s typical workstream, but the mission-driven company was determined to support an educational opportunity for the next wave of its home city’s community health workers.
At Healthify, our mission is to build a world where no one’s health is hindered by their need. We look forward to supporting the Community Health Worker program at the College of Health Related Professions for its duration and will continue to seek opportunities to support community health workers, government agencies, and other healthcare organizations across the country. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at https://www.healthify.us.