Back in 2013, Unite Us was born as a resource guide. We quickly realized that this was not the solution to the problem we were trying to solve. This is when we developed a comprehensive solution that was focused on building networks and included a robust care coordination platform that supports individuals throughout the life of their care journey.
While a resource directory or guide may be one feature of care coordination – it’s simply that: a feature. If you’re looking to address the social determinants of health (SDoH), reduce healthcare costs (and prove it), or facilitate true care collaboration, then you need to explore a coordinated network approach.
Outbound referral without a true partner at the other end is a dead end.
...at best. Sending your patient to an organization that's merely a name on a list is worse than not sending them anywhere. Giving patients the false impression that they’re being taken care of – when in reality, there may not be anyone at the other end of your referral – can be detrimental to your client’s health.
Resource guide-based SDoH tools scrape the internet for the names and locations of service providers and maybe some email addresses to associate with each organization. Questions abound.
Who does that that email address belong to? Who knows?
Does that person have any context or any reason to collaborate? No! Their organization is just a name on a long list with which the organization and the referral-receiver have no connection.
Real care coordination isn’t from a human to an organization, it’s from a human to another human.
In the network approach, actual individual users are onboarded and care coordination tools are built into their existing workflows. Participating organization sign service-level agreements to abide by “rules of the road” meaning they have committed to receive referrals and provide feedback on actual care delivery. In the resource guide-based model, “closing the loop” merely means that receiving organization has the theoretical ability to acknowledge receipt.
What does "referral" mean to you?
If you’re investing in an SDoH solution, it’s essential for you to consider what your definition of a referral is. Does “referral” mean sending a theoretical message out into the ether by pushing a note to just some organization out there? Or does it mean sending a message to a real, engaged partner that has agreed to accept referrals and provide further feedback on actual care delivery? The difference couldn’t be more significant. Either your patient is going to a partner and you will maintain visibility on their care, or – in the resource guide-based model – you’re sending a “referral” out into the world, losing visibility, and crossing your fingers.
Outbound referral tells us nothing about social care delivery. To solve the problem, we need to move beyond resource guides. It can be done!