Why Now? How COVID-19 Will Encourage Future Engagement With Community Resources

During our Quarterly Update call with clients, I received a question about what COVID-19 is revealing regarding IT solutions that engage community resources. I took the question to be about what functionality in those solutions is most pertinent to addressing COVID-19, and answered as such.

However, after the call ended, I realized that there’s also
a lot to be said about why we’ll be clamoring for solutions that engage
community resources after the COVID-19 surge. This may also have been the
intent of what the original question was seeking an answer to.

Why Are Community Engagement Solutions Useful?

Before looking into why COVID-19 will amplify interest in community resource engagement solutions, we must first briefly review why these solutions are beneficial in the first place. There are two main benefits community resources offer to providers:

Health benefits for patients
Reduction of utilization costs
Reduction of provider workloads

All three benefits are closely related, but help providers
in different enough ways to warrant discussion. The first of these benefits,
the health impact of SDoH-centric solutions, has been reported on extensively,
so I will defer to the existing body of literature on that topic for this post.
Similarly, I recently reviewed the potential of SDoH-centric solutions to limit
utilization costs in a recent Research Monitor (exclusive
to subscriber clients), and those findings remain true during the current
crisis. Given the resource crunch many providers find themselves under right
now, these are particularly meaningful.

However, the last benefit, reducing
provider workloads, is the least researched and reported. Yet, it remains
equally pertinent to our current situation (especially in hot spots).

 Providers that have solutions that engage
community resources can delegate work to their community partners. Many issues
that patients face can be addressed through referral to a community partner.
See the following example.

A patient “visits” their PCP using
a virtual care solution after experiencing respiratory issues. After
questioning and observation, the doctor informs the patient that they are suffering
health issues as a result of their worsening smoking habit.


The provider suggests that the patient find a
behavioral health specialist to help them to fight their addiction. Alternately,
the provider searches for a behavioral health specialist themselves, suggesting
that the patient contact them for assistance.
The provider loses touch with the patient – they
have no means of knowing if they found such a company, or if they followed up
and started undergoing treatment.
Provider likely sees the patient many more times
before issues are addressed. Alternately, the respiratory issues worsen.


The provider refers the patient to a vetted
behavioral health specialist through their community resource engagement
Patient attends therapy, and their engagement
with the therapist is tracked and communicated back to the provider.
The therapist helps the patient to address their
addiction, preventing them from developing worse health issues (and requiring
more expensive intensive care).

It’s clear that the latter workflow takes less of providers’
time and effort, as well as decreasing risk of readmission.

How COVID19 Accentuates the Usual Benefits

As Jody
and I
have been stating in previous blogs, the pandemic is disproportionately
affecting people who were already at risk for needing the services of community
partners. Those of low socioeconomic status struggle with the impact of layoffs
and reduced work hours more than those with a preexisting financial safety net.
Community partners have a greater ability to treat health conditions caused by
poverty than providers (in many cases), so people are now demanding the
services of community partners in greater numbers. Yet, the health issues that
result from patients’ poor living conditions keep landing them in providers’
offices or worse, the emergency room.

So, in the hardest hit areas, we’re
burning the candle at both ends. COVID19 is causing a surge in cases that require
the attention of providers, and the number of patients whose health issues
could be addressed by community partners is increasing. Providers that can
efficiently offload these cases to community partners will find themselves with
more time to manage the problems that only they can address.

Why Adopt After this Surge of COVID19?

Simply put, the benefits of effective community resource engagement are felt now more than ever, and people will remember those benefits once the current COVID19 surge begins to subside. Leveraging the capabilities of organizations operating adjacent to healthcare (food banks, transportation assistance organizations, housing assistance programs, etc.) gives providers much-needed support in treating their patient populations.

Furthermore, while the benefits may
be more apparent during a pandemic, they don’t disappear after we return to
normalcy. Community resource engagement solutions will still alleviate workloads,
lower utilization costs, and convey greater health benefits to patients. So, as
value-based contracts become more common, as we weather this pandemic, and with
the capitation of Medicaid, demand for community resource engagement solutions
will certainly rise.

The post Why Now? How COVID-19 Will Encourage Future Engagement With Community Resources appeared first on Chilmark Research.

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