What happens when a diagnosis and treatment is not enough to help a patient?

September 28, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources,
Graphic created by UCLA Health

Approximately a 4-minute read.

Key takeaways:

  • A patient’s health care is not only dependent on their diagnosis and medication, but often social factors as well.
  • Michigan Medicine has partnered with findhelp, an organization with an online database of community-based resources where patients can be referred for their unmet needs. 
  • The new database is now embedded in MiChart and the patient portal.

Ms. M was a 37-year-old woman who was scheduled to have a breast cancer biopsy at the Domino’s Farms pre-op clinic. 

She was sent a survey in advance of her scheduled appointment and identified the following concerns in her questionnaire: difficulty paying for her medical care, food insecurity, challenges with child care, social isolation, interpersonal violence concerns and job resource needs. 

The Social Determinants of Health coordinator received the questionnaire and provided Ms. M with the following referrals and information within 48 hours: 

  • A patient financial counselor to support paying for medical care
  • A social worker to address social isolation, interpersonal violence concerns and mental health needs
  • The Guest Assistance Program to help with food insecurity
  • Resources for employment and child care close to where she lives

Ms. M was grateful for the support, especially for her mental health needs. 

As this example shows, patients’ health care is not only dependent on their diagnosis and medication. It is often dependent on social factors. In fact, these social determinants of health account for 80% of health outcomes. And health care providers are not always aware of these social needs or how to help their patients. 

To address these issues — as was the case with Ms. M — surveys are given to patients to assess their non-medical social needs.  

“For many, it can be hard to ask for help,” said Heather Rye, manager for the Complex Care Management Program at Michigan Medicine. “We are always willing to support our patients and work to find the necessary resources.”

‘Find Help’ is here to help

At Michigan Medicine, primary care patients are given the Partners in Care Questionnaire (PICQ), a screening tool used in the clinical care setting to identify any social needs. However, providers and the care team often found themselves unsure of which community-based resources were a good fit and if the patients connected with those resources after a recommendation.

Now, Michigan Medicine has partnered with findhelp, an organization with an online database of community-based resources where patients can be referred for their unmet needs. 

The findhelp database is now integrated into MiChart. After a patient completes the PICQ, the provider or care team member can review the questionnaire. If a patient indicates that they need support in one of these areas, a referral can be initiated in MiChart. 

Areas of non-medical social needs include:

  • Financial support
  • Technology support for virtual care
  • Food insecurity
  • Housing and utilities
  • Transportation
  • Child or elder care
  • Alcohol use 
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Job training

Patients can also access the findhelp tool through their MyUofMHealth.org patient portal account. 

For example, if a patient who lives in the 48109 ZIP code indicates that they need transportation help to get to their doctor’s appointment, the Find Help tool has access to 42 different programs that may meet the patient’s need. 

These resources are collected in a single site and provide description of services offered, eligibility to use services, contact information and ways to contact the program. Patients can also use the database through the findhelp.org website.

“For those who cannot or are hesitant to ask, findhelp gives power and autonomy to individuals to seek out resources through their patient portal,” Rye said. “And we are careful to inform our patients on the findhelp site that Michigan Medicine staff are available for assistance should they choose to request support. 

“We are excited to provide this tool to both our patients and our staff members who are always looking to do the right thing for patients and families.”

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