With more low-to-modest income patients entering the healthcare system via the Affordable Care Act, practices may benefit from investing in social-support services to address problems that impede patients' ability to receive care, according to a report prepared by Manatt Health Solutions for The Commonwealth Fund, The Skoll Foundation and The Pershing Square Foundation.
"If you have a low-income patient who can't access the care they need because they don't have heat or they don't have a home, it becomes part of the physician's or the clinic's responsibility when it's looking to improve health and contain costs," lead author Deborah Bachrach, special counsel at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips in New York City, told Medscape.
Possible funding sources for such outreach, according to Bachrach and colleagues, include patient-centered medical homes (PCMH), a model that not only requires practices to integrate social support into their services, but also generally yields higher reimbursement rates when a practice becomes certified as a PCMH.
Within the PCMH, for example, a practice might pay personnel from a community organization to work onsite with patients a few days per week to address their social needs, allowing the physicians to focus more productively on medical care, Medscape noted.
While the authors acknowledged that they need more data to determine whether providing more social support will improve quality or cost control, they told Medscape that it does "lay out the business case for providers to include these interventions at their sites in their clinical models … so that providers have a reason for investing, paying for, underwriting the cost of the social intervention."