NewsHousing Program Shows Positive Impact on Patient Health

Housing Program Shows Positive Impact on Patient Health

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Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital have revealed that participation in a housing program is linked to a reduction in outpatient visits, improved physical and mental health, and enhanced connections to primary care clinics and care teams. The study, published in Health Affairs, focuses on a housing intervention program initiated in 2018 to address homelessness prevention and improve healthcare outcomes for vulnerable populations.

The lack of safe and affordable housing is a critical issue in the United States, presenting challenges to patients’ overall health, well-being, and access to care. The Brigham’s initiative involved screening MassHealth patients for social determinants of health (SDoH), such as housing, education, employment, and transportation access. The program identified patients who were unhoused, facing eviction, or living in unsafe conditions, offering integrated support from a care team.

The study’s lead author, Arbour, highlighted the unique approach of the program, which is embedded in primary care and employs a triaged method to identify housing issues affecting individuals’ health. The Social Care Team, including housing advocates, collaborates with clinicians to address patients’ social needs, providing housing information and specialized support for those at risk of eviction or living in unhealthy conditions.

The research team conducted a retrospective cohort evaluation study, examining 1,139 patients with housing-related needs who enrolled in the program between October 2018 and March 2021. Results showed that program participants experienced 2.5 fewer primary care visits and 3.6 fewer outpatient visits per year, including decreased utilization of social work, behavioral health, psychiatry, and urgent care services.

Arbour emphasized the mental and physical health benefits reported by patients upon securing new housing and highlighted the reduced outpatient care, particularly in mental health and behavioral health services. Despite acknowledging limitations in sample size and short-term follow-up, the researchers underscored the positive impact of the program on patient well-being and healthcare utilization.

Moving forward, the research team aims to explore the program’s effects on clinical staff and providers, considering the rising issue of primary care burnout. Arbour emphasized the significant role housing advocates play in providing empathy, respect, and compassion to patients in distressing situations, contributing to the program’s success in addressing mental health and behavioral health needs.

The study concludes by recognizing the stressful impact of homelessness or housing insecurity on mental health and highlights the program’s success in not only improving physical and mental health but also fostering a sense of belonging and care for patients within their primary care clinic.

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