This article was published in the Observer-Reporter
By Karen Mansfield| June 8, 2022
Highmark Health and Allegheny Health Network are collaborating with 20 nonprofits in Washington, Allegheny and Westmoreland counties to create a social care network.
The network will compensate nonprofits that provide services for non-medical factors that impact health, such as food insecurity, transportation barriers and housing, for patients referred by the health care system.
In the first year of the pilot program, the nonprofits – including Cornerstone Care Community Health Centers and Mon Valley Initiative – can earn value-based reimbursement.
“Providers and the health system regularly rely on community organizations to help provide social care because caring for the whole person is central to improving health outcomes, reducing health disparities, and ultimately freeing people to be their best,” said Nebeyou Abebe, senior vice president of social determinants of health with Highmark Health.
Social determinants of health are the conditions in which people live, work, learn and play that can impact up to 80% of an individual’s health outcomes before the health care system can intervene, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Studies indicate that connecting people to social care can reduce health expenditures by thousands of dollars each year, which is significant for those individuals, employers and taxpayers.
“This initiative will help us to collectively test and learn how to build an effective and resilient social care network, and then scale the model to other communities,” said Tony Farah, MD, EVP and chief medical and clinical transformation officer at Highmark Health.
In May 2021, the Richard King Mellon Foundation awarded Highmark Health a $5 million grant to help develop digital health solutions to promoting a person’s whole health – physical, mental and social. A portion of that grant supported Highmark’s effort to design the program, engage community benefit organizations, and build the data infrastructure to measure the program’s impact. Next year, Highmark Health plans to add 20 additional nonprofits to the program.
Individuals facing social needs can visit https://ahn.findhelp.com/ to find free or reduced-cost services in their community. The site connects individuals to thousands of local organizations and programs to access food, housing, transportation, utility assistance, medical care, job training and more.
Other nonprofits participating in the pilot include Action-Housing Inc.; Adagio Health Inc.; Allegheny Valley Association of Churches; Crisis Center North Inc.; Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank; Holy Family Institute; Jewish Family and Community Services; Just Harvest; Pittsburgh Community Services Inc.; Pittsburgh Financial Empowerment Center; Rebuilding Together; Society of St. Vincent de Paul Central Council of Pittsburgh; South Hills Interfaith Movement; Traveler’s Aid Society of Pittsburgh; Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Inc.; Wesley Family Services; Westmoreland Community Action; and Westmoreland County Food Bank, Inc.