New Program Looks to Improve Health by Also Addressing Basic Needs

Sep 5, 2017

A new initiative is seeking to help needy Oklahomans access social services when they get medical care.

MyHealth Access Network has a $4.5 million federal grant to establish the Route 66 Accountable Health Community. MyHealth Access will act as the bridge for Medicare and Medicaid patients who health care providers indicate need assistance after asking patients about their lives.

"And by asking those questions, we hope to uncover the need that exists and then to also provide a program of navigation services to enable those families to get where they need to go," said MyHealth Access Network CEO Dr. David Kendrick.

The grant will fund 14 navigators between the Tulsa and Oklahoma City health departments into 2021.

Studies have found social and economic factors can influence health more than an individual’s behaviors.

"If they don't have enough food to eat or transportation or access to a safe living environment, for example, they're not really going to be able to focus on getting their diabetes under control or their high blood pressure," Kendrick said.

The system will be able to screen at least 75,000 Medicaid and Medicare patients a year.

After providers indicate a patient needs access to a social service, MyHealth Access would send that information to a health department navigator. Navigators would send a referral through MyHealth Access to the appropriate social service agency, and that agency would send a message back to MyHealth Access when the service has been provided.

Kendrick says there's potential for improving the social service process through the accountable health community.

"We will not only have the screenings that are necessary to find folks that need services, but we will also have the ability to know that those loops were closed, that those services were delivered," Kendrick said. "So, we'll start to have a learning system, so we can know, 'Hey, we're really short on food pantries,' or, 'We're a little long on transportation.'"

About 500 service agencies have already been identified for the Route 66 Accountable Health Community. A pilot program will launch in February, with the full rollout in May.

The federal funding is until April 2021.