JOHNSON CITY — Ballad Health and the region’s STRONG Accountable Care Community have announced a new partnership and coordinated care network for community health and well-being in and out of hospitals.
Ballad Health and STRONG ACC officials on Thursday said the partnership with technology company Unite Us will link both the Unite Tennessee and Unite Virginia networks.
Unite Us builds networks in 40 states of health and social services providers that help connect people with housing, food, transportation, employment and other needed services
“Since the merger that formed Ballad Health, we have fully embraced the effort of becoming a true community health improvement organization,” said Anthony Keck, Ballad executive vice president of system innovation and chief population health officer, “one that can make a meaningful and measurable generational improvement in health and well-being in our region.”
In December 2020, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced the formation of Unite Virginia, a $10 million effort to expand the Unite Us network across the commonwealth. Unite Tennessee and Unite Virginia recognize the unique two-state, one-region nature of the Appalachian Highlands, and it will be the first time the Unite Us Platform is utilized in Tennessee.
Within Ballad’s system, Unite Tennessee and Unite Virginia will allow specially trained staff, conducting health-related social needs screenings for gaps in care, such as food and housing insecurity, transportation challenges or other obstacles, to connect with community organizations committed to resolving those issues. Participating organizations will also be able to refer clients to each other, even if the people they are referring are not Ballad Health patients.
“Health care, education, economic success — they are all interrelated,” said Dr. Karen Schetzina, a professor and clinical leader with ETSU Health and Chair of the STRONG ACC. “And likewise, social challenges such as housing, transportation and economic stability are also barriers that impede access to health care and impact health outcomes.”
With the software now in place, when an individual is served by a Ballad Health team member or one of the Unite Tennessee and Unite Virginia network partners, their specific social needs will be noted in the system. If, after obtaining the community member’s permission, a referral for a social service is made, the organization receiving the referral will be notified, and that individual’s progress in receiving the service will be recorded. This allows for closed-loop communication, which currently does not exist across the many different organizations in the region.
The system integrates with Ballad Health’s Epic electronic medical record system, as well as with other systems and platforms used by community-based providers across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.
In its first year of operation, Unite Tennessee and Unite Virginia will have 100 users from Ballad Health and will be able to accept an unlimited number of community organizations as network partners.