The federal government has selected Oklahoma’s Route 66 Coalition to receive a $4.5M grant to create an Accountable Health Community where social issues and needs, and not just medical needs, are addressed to improve health. Led by Oklahoma’s non-profit health information network, MyHealth Access Network, the Route 66 Coalition also includes the Oklahoma City-County and Tulsa Health Departments and more than 200 other health care and social service organizations in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma’s Route 66 AHC program will screen more than 75,000 Oklahomans each year for social needs in five key areas that can lead to poor health outcomes: housing insecurity, food insecurity, utility assistance, interpersonal violence, and transportation. Patients seeking medical care will be asked questions related to these five core human needs and, if necessary, connected with community social service “navigators,” a new role in the city-county health departments funded by the AHC grant. The navigators will work with the patients and their families to evaluate their needs and help them select the best organizations to improve their situation. MyHealth serves as the project’s bridging organization, connecting and coordinating all of the moving parts of the program. In addition, MyHealth is providing the technology to connect and securely exchange data and enable electronic referrals to social service agencies and other providers when needed.
Dr. Bruce Dart, Executive Director of the Tulsa Health Department, said the new model will help get to the root cause of poor health outcomes instead of just addressing the symptoms.
“We have Tulsans who lack the basic needs and rights of human existence, like having enough food to eat, a safe place to live, public utilities and transportation,” said Dart. “This grant provides us with a unique opportunity to initiate a conversation with a patient to understand the root cause of their health issues. For instance, if a child repeatedly needs care for asthma symptoms, have we given them medications without first asking the parents about living conditions? Could it be that their substandard housing is host to mold, which is causing respiratory issues? We’ve got to address the real problems to see real gains in health improvement.”
Oklahoma City-County Health Department Executive Director Gary Cox agreed, saying the new model had the ability to permanently improve the health care landscape in Oklahoma.
“By linking prevention and wellness efforts with sick-care we can create a forward thinking approach to preventing illness, saving money and most importantly saving the lives of Oklahomans,” said Cox. “It is a transformation of the public health system and we look forward to implementing it.”
The new approach to health care and wellness is made possible by the coalition of more than 400 health-related organizations from across Oklahoma that make up the MyHealth Access Network. The organizations participating in MyHealth have been able to securely exchange health care records since 2010, serving hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans who seek health care each year.
“This AHC program is a very important next step to improving health for all Oklahomans,” said MyHealth CEO, Dr. David Kendrick, “Doctors are often challenged by patients who, despite receiving the correct prescriptions and recommendations, just don’t seem to be getting any better. One of the most common reasons for this is that the patient or family has other needs that aren’t getting met. It’s difficult to imagine spending money on medications or transportation to the doctor when your children are hungry, or you don’t have housing or a safe living situation. This program aims to identify and address these issues for our most vulnerable neighbors so they can focus on getting healthy too.”
“The members of MyHealth are using technology and shared data to be more responsive to patient needs,” said Kendrick. “That approach will improve lives. It will also save money and help us to address the ongoing question, ‘how can we drive down the cost of medical care for everyone and make it more affordable and accessible?”
Oklahoma’s Accountable Health Communities program begins in May with nine months of planning organization and is expected to be fully implemented by early 2018.
About MyHealth Access Network
MyHealth Access Network is a 501(c)(3) non-profit coalition of more than 400 health-related organizations in Oklahoma. Founded in 2009, MyHealth provides technology and policies to enable patients to have their complete health record securely available whenever and wherever they need it for care. MyHealth helps doctors, hospitals and other care providers to offer the best care possible by better coordinating care, identifying needed preventive services, preventing mistakes, and saving patients money by avoiding unnecessary tests and copays. MyHealth’s mission is to help Oklahoma achieve and sustain the highest quality health care at the best value in the nation using health information resources, technology and expertise, and their vision is to dramatically improve health outcomes and health care value for the individuals and whole communities which it serves. See www.myhealthaccess.net for a complete listing of organizations participating in MyHealth.
About Oklahoma City-County Health Department
Established in 1954, Oklahoma City-County Health Department (OCCHD) is committed to protecting health, promoting wellness and preventing disease to ensure a healthy future for the Oklahoma County-area community. OCCHD was one of the first public health departments in the nation to receive accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board. For more information, please visit www.occhd.org.
About Tulsa Health Department
Since its establishment in 1950, the Tulsa Health Department serves as the primary public health agency to more than 600,000 Tulsa County residents, including 13 municipalities and four unincorporated areas. THD’s mission is to sustain an equitable system that prevents disease, promotes healthy living, and ensures preparedness. The agency is dedicated to empowering citizens to make healthy choices that carry forward for future generations. THD was among the first health departments in the U.S. to receive national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board. For more information, please visit www.tulsa-health.org.