Hospitals: Working Beyond Their Walls to Improve Health

That Massachusetts hospitals provide compassionate, life-saving care to all is a given. What is perhaps less known is that each day they undertake important initiatives to reach deeper into their communities to improve health. Here are just two examples:
The South Shore Community Behavioral Health Initiative (SSCBHI), led by South Shore Health, last week awarded $1.8 million in community grants to two local non-profit agencies. The Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) and Bay State Community Services, Inc. will each receive $930,000 grants for their work targeting behavioral health patients, specifically in improving their access to medical care and services, housing, transportation, food, clothing, and insurance. The $1.8 million is part of a total $2.4 million from South Shore Health; Greater Brockton Health Alliance, South Shore Community Partners, and Blue Hills Health Alliance will each receive $180,000 over the next three years.
“This first-of-its kind grant program on the South Shore reflects our organization’s deep commitment to promoting good health within the community and by removing barriers to accessing behavioral healthcare for the most vulnerable among us,” said South Shore Health President & CEO Gene E. Green, M.D.

Boston Medical Center recently reported on its successful effort to screen primary care patients for social determinants of health and then enter the data into the electronic health record, which automatically prints out referral information for resources that can help the patient.
The system, called THRIVE, helps clinicians better address the social needs of patients to improve their overall health. The one-page screening tool is available in six languages and is filled out by patients in the waiting room. It asks about eight social determinants of health domains: homelessness and housing insecurity, food insecurity, inability to afford medications, lack of transportation to medical appointments, utilities, caregiving, unemployment, and educational aspirations. It also asked patients if they wanted assistance with any of the needs they had identified on the THRIVE screening tool. 
“The ability to successfully incorporate this critical information into the electronic medical record is a true game changer when it comes to addressing the whole patient,” said Pablo Buitron de la Vega, M.D., a physician in general internal medicine and the study’s lead author. 
BMC is now screening all patients with THRIVE in all ambulatory primary care clinics, including family medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and general internal medicine. To date, BMC has screened more than 57,000 patients – 28% report having at least one need and 19% request help with at least one need. Housing, food and education are the most prevalent health-related social needs of BMC’s patients.