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Report: Community Health Workers Improve Outcomes, Cut Costs

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Keeping high-needs patients healthy reduces hospitalizations and emergency room visits, according to a new report. (CDC/Amanda Mills)
Keeping high-needs patients healthy reduces hospitalizations and emergency room visits, according to a new report. (CDC/Amanda Mills)
June 20, 2017

HARTFORD, Conn. – Community health workers, who provide a link between patients and clinical care, can improve the health of high-needs patients and help control medical costs, according to a new report.

The report from the Connecticut Health Foundation looks at successful community health worker programs in other states and projects what impact they could have in Connecticut.

For example, Patricia Baker, the foundation’s CEO, says applying a program used in New Mexico to a targeted population of high-needs individuals in New London could cut emergency room visits by 69 percent and hospitalizations by 81 percent, producing significant savings.

"The return on investment for a dollar is $2.40, and that doesn't speak to the health and well-being of the individual," she points out.

A bill that has passed the General Assembly paves the way for creating a certification process, potentially strengthening support for community health workers, or CHWs.

Currently funding for CHWs is not stable. Baker says many services are paid for with grants from organizations such as the Connecticut Health Foundation.

"As soon as our grant was finished, everybody acknowledged how effective the program was but there was no source of funding, especially in the traditional medical model that we operated under," she states.

Baker maintains reliable funding for community health workers will become available as health care payments shift from concentrating on treating illness to a value-based system that is designed to keep people healthy.

"We think this will benefit not only institutions around the bottom line, but it will help people most in need improve their health and well being," she states.

Baker says the report offers a blueprint for potential programs that hospitals, insurance companies and community organizations can apply across Connecticut.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT