How Stanford undergrads are advocating for patients' socioeconomic needs in the ER

Undergraduates at Stanford University are working to combat health inequity in emergency rooms, according to Stanford Medicine's blog Scope.

Jennifer Newberry, MD, a clinical assistant professor in emergency medicine at Stanford, launched Stanford Health Advocacy and Research in the Emergency Department. The program allows Stanford undergraduates to screen patients in the ED for legal and social needs and connect them to local resources and programs.

SHARED began in 2012 with the Stanford Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention program, which aims to identify and reduce high-risk alcohol use. Undergraduate volunteers administer electronic screening questionnaires and give patients information on alcohol safety. High-risk patients can then meet with a social worker.

The effort expanded to develop the Help Desk program, where ED patients are screened for problems with health insurance, food insecurity, homelessness and employment. Undergraduates then identify patients' unfulfilled needs, eligibility of support and appropriate community resources during ER visits. The undergraduates also make follow up calls to patients at two, four and six weeks to track patients' progress.

"So many patients and families carry the stress and anxiety of food insecurity, impending evictions, or even potential deportations, without anyone to hear their story," Dr. Newberry said. "Our students listen and provide compassionate support amidst the chaos of an emergency department." 

More articles on EDs:
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6% of patients account for $148M of ED spending in Alaska
Indulgent diets, little sleep, food poisoning: Why ER physicians see more patient visits during holidays

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