South Carolina has an innovation it hopes will cut health care costs, improve care delivery, and strengthen community ties all at once. According to the San Franciso Chronicle, the state’s Medicaid office has launched a program to train key community leaders to make health visits to elderly, poor, and disabled patients at home. The vistors will help patients with everything from taking their medicine properly to arranging trips to the doctor’s office when necessary.
The program is in a pilot phase right now, funding 20 doctor’s officies to train and hire the home vistors, known as community health workers. Workers who pass a test demonstrating basic competency will start making visits this summer. The state hopes that this program will cut costs by helping people avoid expensive trips to the hospital or emergency room due to simple problems like failing to take medication as directed, or difficulty following a doctor’s treatment plan.
The program, though as yet untested, seems promising because it recognizes just how important service delivery and distribution is to transforming the health care industry. Innovations in service delivery will be just as crucial moving forward as new miracle drugs or new medical technology. Improving distribution channels is less glamorous work than Nobel Prize-winning cancer cures, but they are crucial to making American health care better and more affordable.
But programs like these are important for more than just their potential to revolutionize service delivery; they also ideally will help build stronger community ties. Like hospice care, which allows people to die with dignity, surrounded by family in their own homes, health visits by local leaders will shift some health care work away from the faceless bureaucracies that often characterize conventional health care options and back toward our communities.
[Image of nurse visting a patient from Shutterstock]