WVU Medicine to implement program to reduce barriers to care

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU Medicine is implementing a new program through its electronic medical record system, EPIC, to help address social determinants of health, or barriers, that affect patient health, such as transportation, food, and shelter. 

This program is supported in part by a $50,000 grant from the Highmark West Virginia Charitable Fund for Health. Announced this past spring, the West Virginia Charitable Fund for Health is a new funding extension of the Highmark Foundation and was established to specifically address and improve the health, well-being, and quality of life for individuals who live in West Virginia.

The inaugural grant cycle of Highmark’s West Virginia Charitable Fund included awarding major grants of up to $50,000 to organizations for initiatives throughout West Virginia that target and improve health outcomes in priority health areas – community health, family health, access to care, service delivery systems, chronic disease, and oral health.

The program will exist as an extension of the current EPIC software and give providers a list of community-based organizations to which patients can be referred, such as a local food pantry or transportation service.

“Social barriers, such as not having a place to sleep at night or not having a means of transportation to make it to your doctor’s appointment, can have a significant impact on a person’s health,” Chris McCormick, WVU Medicine Population Health director, said. “In fact, research has associated 40 percent of a person’s health to socioeconomic factors, making it incredibly difficult to manage and treat chronic disease without considering social barriers.”

The system allows bi-directional communication, allowing providers to review the patient’s file and see if the organization received the referral and was able to follow up with the patient. 

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