WANTED: Innovative Technology for Social Care Referrals

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) is seeking Health IT Solutions that will help healthcare systems and community-based organizations partner together to provide holistic health and social care for older adults. The total cash prize pool is $500,000. Companies have until December 14th 2020 to enter the ACL’s Social Care Referrals Challenge.

ACL is an operating division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). ACL was created around the fundamental principle that all people, regardless of age or disability, should be able to live where they choose, with the people they choose, and fully participate in their communities. ACL helps makes this principle a reality for millions of Americans through advocacy, funding, training, education, research and fostering innovation.

ACL is currently running a technology challenge for social care referrals.

“Currently, individuals are seeking care from providers with differing platforms and data isn’t being shared”, said Ami Patel, Program Analyst, Administration for Community Living at U.S. Health & Human Services in an email to Healthcare IT Today. “. In addition, many providers are not leveraging the existing infrastructure of community-based resources that address social needs, so there are competing resource directories and duplicative spending on different referral vendors across stakeholders.”

This lack of cohesion causes issues for patients. Hospitals use their own directories to provide information to patients about community resources. However, that information is often out of date or incomplete. When the patient tries to connect with the community resource identified by the hospital, they may find it does not provide the services they require or that it may no longer exist. Worse, there is no mechanism for this information to be fed back to the hospital to update their community service database.

Solving this information challenge is important according to Patel: “Vulnerable populations – whether they are an older adult, anyone with a disability, a veteran, caregivers, etc., – require holistic support and access to a vast array of services that help cope with food insecurity and transportation issues, manage chronic disease, support employment and economic independence, reduce social isolation, and address other factors outside of the medical system that impact a person’s health and support community living. This involves coordination among institutions; however, such institutions often struggle to work together, in part because their technologies can’t ‘speak’ to each other. The current siloed environment is leading to increased healthcare costs and is affecting overall health and wellbeing.”

The ACL Challenge is open to:

  • State and community leaders in the aging and disability network
  • Community-based organizations in aging and disability networks
  • Medicaid programs (or their designees)
  • Healthcare providers
  • Health plans
  • Health IT vendors

According to the Challenge website, preference will be given to teams that include a combination of the entities listed above.

Participants in the Challenge are asked to work together to create scalable approaches to securely share standardized data on social determinants and person-centered plans through the use of open resource directories. Solutions should connect healthcare provider EHRs to community-based organizations. The Challenge also includes developing prototypes and implementing technical solutions that track referral patterns and gaps in service that visibly display social service and health-related outcomes over time.

The Challenge is divided into 3 phases:

  • Phase 1: Concept & Design Submission – applications due December 14, 2020
  • Phase 2: Proof of Concept & Demonstration (January – June 2021)
  • Phase 3: Implementation & Testing (July – December 2021)

“For the teams that move on to Phase 3, we will hope to see real-time reports on the data exchange and use of open resource directories while demonstrating the possibility of scaling up capacity,” shared Patel.

ACL’s prior challenge to combat social isolation generated a strong response with 38 applicants. The judges have selected two finalists who are now competing for the final prize which will be announced in January 2021 at CES.

For more information about ACL’s Social Care Referrals Challenge, please visit their website at: https://acl.gov/socialcarereferrals

About the author

Colin Hung

Colin Hung

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

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