Hackensack Meridian Health partners with NowPow to create SDOH referral program

The largest health system in New Jersey has launched a program to connect patients in need with community resources.

Edison, New Jersey-based Hackensack Meridian Health announced Thursday that it has partnered with NowPow, a personalized digital community referral platform, to establish the program.

The NowPow platform is embedded in the health system’s EHR, allowing care teams to screen patients for social factors that may be negatively affecting their health, such as housing instability or food insecurity, and provide referrals to community-based resources to address those needs. These include food banks, rental assistance agencies, transportation assistance companies and behavioral health services.

As evidence tying social factors to health grows, NowPow’s platform is being increasingly adopted by providers, including New York City-based Northwell Health in 2019 and West Orange, New Jersey-based RWJBarnabas Health last year.

The platform went live within Hackensack Meridian’s EHR on June 28, said Nicole R. Harris-Hollingsworth, the health system’s vice president of social determinants of health. Since then, more than 80,000 patients have been screened and more than 21,000 referrals have been issued.

“The overarching goal of our partnership [with NowPow] is to really be able to provide effective connectivity between community-based partners and healthcare organizations,” Harris-Hollingsworth said in a phone interview.

Along with clinicians, the health system’s community outreach and engagement team and medical students who are supporting programs in the community have access to the platform through a mobile device.

Further, Hackensack Meridian Health and NowPow are offering community-based organizations a tool that will enable them to keep their profiles in the platform up-to-date and participate in the closed-loop referral process. This way, when a referral is made, the community organization can let the health system know if they saw the patient and send over relevant information to be stored in the patient’s EHR, Harris-Hollingsworth said.

NowPow is also integrated into Hackensack Meridian Health’s website so people can take screenings and be connected to resources without necessarily going through the provider.

The health system will use several different metrics to track the program’s use, Harris-Hollingsworth said.

First, they will look at the adoption of the platform among their own clinicians. Hackensack Meridian currently has more than 6,100 clinicians trained on the platform.

In addition, they will examine the number of screenings completed and referrals generated via the platform.

For Hackensack Meridian, it was important to create a program where information is married to action.

“You don’t ask the questions [about social determinants of health] if you can’t help,” Harris-Hollingsworth said. “We now can confidently ask the questions. We now, through this partnership with NowPow, have empowered a greater number of people to provide the answers.”

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