Community Care

How Hartford HealthCare brings more care to our communities.

Bridging the gap to better health

by Chris Wojcik

Hartford HealthCare clinicians and staff are dedicated to providing the highest level of medical care for patients. But what happens when social factors such as hunger, homelessness, transportation challenges or child care issues negatively affect a patient’s health?

To bridge this gap, Hartford HealthCare partnered with the national online service Aunt Bertha to develop Connections That Matter. The new online platform helps clinicians connect patients with an array of community resources addressing vital social determinants of health — such as housing, employment or food — that can have a significant impact on a person’s physical and emotional well-being.

The pilot — the first of its kind in the area — launched in August at 12 Hartford HealthCare Medical Group practices throughout Connecticut, and the Hartford Hospital Emergency Department. Trained staff screen and identify patients to determine if social issues are contributing to medical problems. If necessary, an electronic referral is sent to the appropriate community resource for support.

Although it’s still early, staff has made as many as a dozen referrals a week, with searches for community services increasing every month. The areas of greatest need include emergency food (20 percent of all searches), housing (18 percent) and transportation (13 percent).

Jennifer Pothen, MD, a primary care physician in Norwich, used Connections That Matter to help a mother with a son who uses a wheechair get transportation to medical appointments. With the help of Connections That Matter, Dr. Pothen referred the woman to a local service that provides people with special medical transportation.

“There are a plethora of needs in our community and it is heartening to know that as a primary healthcare provider, my staff and I have the opportunity to help improve our patients’ quality of life,” she explains. “By allowing us to send electronic referrals, we can answer the question, ‘Have we helped?’ This is something we have not been able to do in the past.”

Hartford HealthCare will continue to roll out the program to more locations throughout our system of care. The goal is full integration by the end of September 2020 — one more way to provide access to programs that help people live their healthiest lives.

Below Photos by Jeff Evans: Left, Dr. Jennifer Pothen, right, talks with nurse Erin Yuhas, left, and medical assistant Hannah Goodale in her Norwich office about referrals to local services for patients needing help. Right, she looks at computerized services for patients with Cynthia Hines, PSC.

Serving the community’s most vulnerable

By Anne Rondepierre-Riczu

“That which you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me” embodies the spirit behind St. Vincent’s Medical Mission at Home, an annual day of service established in October 2015 that has grown steadily each year.

The goals of Medical Mission at Home are to provide access to medical care and other necessary services for Bridgeport’s most vulnerable, underserved and homeless residents. An interdisciplinary team of hospital leaders planned for six months to model St. Vincent’s Mission after a similar one held each year in Nashville, creating a “field hospital” that oversees medical, nursing, pharmacy, logistics, volunteers and other key teams.

Since then, the mission has touched 1,500 of Bridgeport’s most vulnerable homeless and underserved people, giving free services such as prescriptions, vaccinations and flu shots, haircuts, podiatry services, foot washings, behavioral health services and mammogram scheduling.

Those who attend receive lunch, new coats and winter gear, shoes and socks, reading glasses, toiletries, blankets and books. Physicians and nurses volunteer to provide medical exams and point-of-care testing for patients who are then referred to primary care physicians for follow up.

On November 2, the 2019 Mission was held at Cesar Batalla School, serving 500 people. Most of the nearly 450 volunteers participating were employees. Also participating were St. Vincent’s affiliate community physicians and medical, nursing and pharmacy students. St. Vincent’s Foundation underwrites the approximate $20,000 cost of the hundreds of hours that go into event planning.

Several community partners collaborate each year to provide additional resources, including: Bridgeport Health Department; Hope Dispensary of Greater Bridgeport; Greater Bridgeport Transit; United Way; and the Southwest Community Health Center.

Below Photos Submitted: Bottom left, women try on winter coats, above left, to see which they might want as part of the annual St. Vincent’s Medical Mission at Home. Bottom, right, volunteer doctors greet a woman who has come for a medical exam.

“Each year, the Mission makes a real difference. In 2019, three patients who presented in immediate need of emergency treatment, including a potential suicide, were transported for care. Their lives could have taken a different turn had they not been at the Mission that day,” said Dianne Auger, Fairfield Region vice president of strategy and regional development and president and CEO of St. Vincent’s Foundation.

The mission by the numbers:

• 5 years serving the community

• 1,500 of our most vulnerable neighbors reached

• 450 clinical and non-clinical volunteers