Hospital-church partnership saves $4M, cuts mortality by half

In the search to curb escalating healthcare costs, hospitals are looking for a miracle, that is, they are exploring partnerships with churches and other faith groups as a way to save funds and improve care. Such programs were at the heart of a White House conference Tuesday, notes the Columbus Dispatch.

A program at Methodist Le Bonheur Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., inspired the conference, according to the Dispatch.

The Methodist Memphis Model involves 376 congregations and trains volunteer liaisons from each congregation to make sure patients understand and follow doctors' orders and that they receive the next steps of care. Through its religious partnerships, Methodist has saved $4 million, slashed mortality by 50 percent, and reduced readmissions by 20 percent, notes the Dispatch.

"We can look at the data comparing our patients who come from our Congregational Health Network partners to those who are not so connected," Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare President and CEO Gary Shorb wrote in a guest column in The Commercial Appeal. "And we learn that volunteers in churches can create better outcomes that we can't achieve by ourselves."

Loma Linda University Medical Center in California shared its experiences working with religious groups including mega-churches and storefront houses of worship, reports the Press-Enterprise. The Medical Center promotes its outreach programs to the religious congregations to help members prevent health problems from getting worse and more expensive, Loma Linda's Vice President of Mission and Culture Dr. Gerald Winslow told conference attendees.

"They're engaging congregational leaders or community leaders outside of their walls to improve outcomes of their patients and to help them save money," Mara Vanderslice Kelly, director of the Department of Health & Human Service's Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said of the invited health systems, notes the Press-Enterprise.

For more information:
- check out the Press-Enterprise article
- read the Columbus Dispatch article
- read the guest column in The Commercial Appeal

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