Health Beyond The Hospital

The Lempert Report
December 14, 2021

Every single patient that heads to a RWJBarnabas Health facility will be soon be screened for social determinants of health and, if needed, referred to services for ongoing support. This is groundbreaking for medicine as we typically ignore the social or environmental factors in a patient's life—including access to healthy food, safe housing or transportation—that can ultimately impact their health. The program, called Health Beyond the Hospital (HBTH), will be the first "end-to-end, universally applied, culturally-tailored and fully integrated" SDOH program in the country. Barry Ostrowsky, president and CEO said in the announcement,  “What defines our health is so much greater than genetics or clinical care; 80% of all health outcomes are due to social, behavioral, and environmental factors that are the social determinants of health. The timely interventions made possible by Health Beyond the Hospital will create a spiral that will positively impact the well-being of our patients and all of those caring for patients across our community.”

Care providers will be able to use the technology from both partners to tailor a recommendation of resources a patient needs and "e-prescribe" those resources, connecting them directly to support such as the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Health systems often target their SDOH efforts on patients with the lowest incomes or who are frequent utilizers of the healthcare system, DeAnna Minus-Vincent, corporate senior vice president of social impact & community investment at RWJBarnabas Health, but now it expands. She shares an example: "Our questions focus on not just whether someone can afford food, but also on good nutrition. 'Are you eating fruits and vegetables? How many sugary drinks do you have a day?'" They also ask questions around social isolation, substance use, intimate partner violence and housing needs such as rodent infestations or mold, she said. The program is built to allow patients to answer questions from the privacy of their mobile device or in a conversation with a medical professional, depending on how they feel most comfortable.

This is what holistic health care is all about. Well done.