Carol Cahill and Michelle Chapdelaine demonstrate Neighborhood Health Link at the October 2014 HealthFest at Seattle Center
Submitted by Carol Cahill, Research Associate, Center for Community Health and Evaluation, Group Health Research Institute
There is increasing recognition of the role that community resources play in helping people be healthy and the need for stronger linkages between those resources and primary care practices. Neighborhood Health Link (NHLink) is a web-based portal of affordable and high-quality community resources that support people in eating healthy diets, being physically active, and managing chronic conditions such as diabetes. Group Health Community Engagement sponsors NHLink as both a health promotion strategy and a clinical tool, in partnership with the Center for Community Health and Evaluation (CCHE), part of Group Health Research Institute (GHRI).
Some background: Conversations in 2010 with a number of healthcare and public health leaders pointed Group Health in the direction of strengthening clinic-community linkages as a health promotion strategy. During focus groups held in 2011 physicians at three Group Health clinics told us their patients were more likely to use a community resource like Weight Watchers if they knew the exact time and place the program was offered, but that getting information about these resources was a challenge.
To help fill this gap, we built NHLink from scratch and designed it to have both resource andgeographic granularity: Searches point to individual services and programs, such as women-only exercise classes in a particular ZIP code, rather than just to the organizations offering those programs. The database—with a customized interface—is hosted by NorthLight, which provides the platform for a number of statewide information and referral sites, including WIN211. One of NHLink’s special features is the ability to copy a permalink to search results and paste it into a patient’s medical record for later viewing at home.
Neighborhood Health Link was soft-launched in 2012 at a Group Health clinic in south King County. Providers and staff were given one-on-one training and NHLink was showcased at a number of staff meetings and huddles. Usage throughout the year remained disappointingly low, mainly because of lack of time to search for community resources during a patient visit. Updates to the NHLink database were put on hold after a Community Engagement position was eliminated.
In 2013 a GHRI/CCHE investigator received a three-year grant from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute to pilot a clinic-community liaison role at two Group Health clinics (one in King County and one in Pierce County). An up-to-date and user-friendly NHLink database is a critical tool for success of this project, “Learning to Integrate Neighborhoods and Clinical Care” or LINCC. (Note to Washington readers: the LINCC project will be featured at this year’s WMLA annual meeting.) Community Resource Specialists (CRSs) were hired in summer 2014 to help patients set health goals and link them to community resources. To support this effort, CCHE received a 2014-15 NN/LM PNR Medical Library Pilot Project award to expand and update database content, train users, and engage community partners. (more…)