Priya Bathija, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at the American Hospital Association, joins me to talk about the social needs laid bare by COVID.

Priya leads the AHA’s efforts to guide hospitals and health systems as they promote affordability by improving quality and decreasing cost. In addition, she leads the organization’s work on maternal and child health, social determinants, and its exploration of innovative delivery and payment system reforms that will allow vulnerable urban and rural communities to ensure access to essential health care services. 

Highlights include:

4:20 – PB: “I have a really great example from Atlantic Health System in Morristown, New Jersey that I’d love to share. Atlantic Health System in New Jersey was part of the first big COVID hotspot. And at their peak, they had about 900 COVID-19 patients in their hospital. And just to give you a sense of comparison, when I spoke with them last week, they had six patients, so huge spike in the number of cases they had during the peak. Prior to COVID, they had developed a number of integrated care teams and a telemedicine structure and they were able to take those efforts and quickly pivot to ensuring that patients had the right care at the right time.”

5:27 – PB: “The integrated care teams (at Atlantic Health System) included a community health worker. And so during the pandemic, those community health workers essentially were able to serve as a jack-of-all-trades and could assess what patients needed and then meet those needs. So they shared that one of the most common things that the community health workers were doing was delivering medications to patients at their home, so they could be treated and get well. Their integrated care teams also included behavioral health and social health experts. So they were able to use those teams to triage patients, set up testing centers and also to shift care to home. And by being able to provide care to patients in their home, they not only kept those patients happier because, let’s be real, no one wants to be In a hospital during COVID.”

10:54 – PB: “The COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting Black, Indigenous and People of Color or BIPOC communities. And just to give you some statistics to frame where we are, Black and Latino Americans are three times more likely than white people to contract COVID-19.”

12:55 – PB: “When you are homeless and don’t have a place to live in terms of COVID, specifically, you don’t have a place to socially distance, you don’t have a place to quarantine if you’ve been exposed to the virus. You may not have access to a mask if you’re homeless or a place to wash your hands.”

17:20 – PB: “Allina Health has used the digital approach for screening and addressing social needs. So they acknowledged they can’t necessarily bring everyone in to ask them questions. So they do it through an app and they find out what are some of the social needs. And then through the app itself, they’re able to address food insecurity or housing challenges. We’ve also seen the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences develop a screening tool that determines whether patients who test positive for COVID have the ability to self quarantine.”

Leading with Health is hosted by Jennifer Michelle. Jennifer has a Master’s in Public Health and Epidemiology and is a certified EMT. As President of Michelle Marketing Strategies, Jennifer specializes in healthcare marketing. She is on a mission to create a healthcare system that actually cares about the patients and the providers.