How social interventions improve outcomes in Houston

In response to a patient population in dire need of assistance with the social determinants of health, providers in Houston formed an intervention center to better connect those people with services outside of the hospital setting.

Patient Care Intervention Center (PCIC) was launched in 2009 by David Buck, M.D., a professor of medicine at Baylor University, and has since expanded its offerings to connect patients with primary care services, housing and other social needs. As a result, PCIC has reduced costs and improved patient outcomes, Buck and R. Conor Holton-Burke, a medical student at Baylor, write in a blog post for NEJM Catalyst.

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PCIC identified 39 Houston patients that visited the emergency department at least 10 times or were admitted to the hospital at least four times in the course of year. The center then enrolled those patients in a program where they met weekly with care coordinators, were connected to social services and were chaperoned to primary care appointments, according to the blog.

Within six months, the participants reduced their healthcare utilization, and costs dropped from $2.3 million in the six months before the program to $1 million in the six months during the program. Visits to the ER also decreased, according to the blog post, from 360 visits in the six months prior to the program to 131 once participants enrolled in the program. The two factors are linked, as many ER visits are unnecessary, leading to added, unneeded costs and burden on the healthcare system.

“One way that healthcare providers can better serve our under-resourced patients with complex medical and social needs now, however, is by helping them access treatments and social interventions we already know to be effective,” Buck and Holton-Burke write.