Physician Practice

Pilot project to address health-related social needs

Physician Practice Insider, January 12, 2016

A CMS Innovation Center pilot project aims to address patients’ health-related social needs. Award recipients, or “bridge organizations,” in the five year program, the Accountable Health Communities Model, will screen patients for certain health-related social needs and refer them to the appropriate services, according to a statement released by HHS. For example, a patient who is not taking prescribed medications because he or she lacks access to transportation to a pharmacy could be referred to the appropriate federal, state, or local agency. Other social concerns bridge organizations would screen for include problems maintaining utility service, hunger, housing instability, or interpersonal violence.
   
When patients are forced to choose between paying utilities, housing costs, or other necessary expenses and purchasing prescription medications, they often choose not to buy their medication, HHS says. This leads to health complications for the patient and increased cost for Medicare. Bridge organizations will provide referrals, and will also provide assessments of available community services, planning, and follow up. An advisory board will developed as part of the program, and gap analysis and quality improvement policies will be determined through data sharing.

Applications are due early this year, although an exact date is not given. CMS plans to announce 44 award recipients in the fall.

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