Addressing Social Needs in Clinical Settings: Early Lessons from Accountable Health Communities.

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DOI: 10.1089/pop.2023.0119


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently adopted quality metrics that require hospitals to screen for health-related social risks. The hope is that these requirements will encourage health care organizations to refer patients with social needs to community resources and, as possible, offer navigation services. This approach-screening, referrals, and navigation-is based, in part, on the Accountable Health Communities (AHC) model. Twenty-two of 31 participants in the AHC model in 2019 were interviewed to generate guidance for health care organizations as they implement screening, referral, and navigation activities to improve patients' health-related social risks. From these interviews, the team identified 4 key program design elements that facilitated AHC implementation: (1) centralized management office, (2) accountability milestones, (3) prescriptive requirements, and (4) technology support. The structure and requirements of the AHC model spurred participating organizations to rapidly implement social care activities, but the model did not allow for the flexibility necessary to ensure sustained adoption of AHC activities. The AHC model required a designated centralized management office, which was instrumental in ensuring AHC activities were implemented effectively. The centralized management office was typically external from participating clinical sites that impacted the AHC model's integration within clinical workflows. The reliance on the centralized management office to implement AHC activities limited the sustainability of the model. As payers, policymakers, and delivery system leaders aim to develop sustainable and effective social care programs, insights from these interviews can help guide and shape policy and program design elements.

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Popul Health Manag





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community health planning; health care reform; health policy; referral and consultation; social determinants of health

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