June 21, 2017

CT report: Community health workers have positive ROI

Connecticut healthcare organizations that hire community health workers could improve the health of high-need patients with asthma, diabetes and other chronic conditions while also saving money, according to an analysis released by the Connecticut Health Foundation.

Community health workers, also referred to as patient navigators, health coaches and peer educators, help bridge the gaps between clinical care and factors outside the doctor's office that affect patients' health. Their services often are funded through grants or other temporary payment sources, according to the foundation, which wants to ensure such workers are more sustainably embedded in the healthcare system.

The report offers a blueprint for potential programs that hospital systems, insurance companies, community organizations and other groups could pilot to improve health outcomes and achieve a positive return on investment. Each model is projected to cost less than it would save in direct medical costs.

University of Massachusetts researchers developed four community health worker models for Connecticut based on successful programs elsewhere.

One model to control Type 2 diabetes among 158 Hartford Latinos showed projected ROI of $1.12 for every $1 invested over three years in a community health worker program based on a Texas model using home visits, counseling, education and exercise.

Chronic patient populations in three other Connecticut areas showed projected ROIs up to $2.40 for every $1 invested over three years, based on other U.S. community health worker models applied in Connecticut.

"This report makes a business case for community health workers, and will help those leading healthcare organizations ensure they are investing in interventions that will bring results," Gregory B. Butler, chair of the Connecticut Health Foundation's board of directors, said in a written statement.

The report was prepared by Katharine London, Kelly Love and Roosa Tikkanen at the UMass Medical School's Center for Health Law and Economics and based on successful models in other states.

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