Community health workers double patients' satisfaction, reduce their time in hospital, study shows

Community health workers, or laypeople who support high-risk patients facing social issues, can help reduce hospital stays by 65 percent and double patient satisfaction with primary care, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found.

The study, conducted by researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, looked at chronically ill, low-income patients and U.S. veterans.

Between January 2015 and March 2016, 288 patients received typical primary care, while 304 patients received community health worker support. The community health worker-supported group received six months of tailored support that included health coaching and social support to help patients with food or housing needs.

Patients who received community health worker support were about twice as likely to report high quality primary care and spend fewer days in the hospital compared to patients in the typical primary care group. The community health worker-supported patients also had lower rates of repeat hospitalizations, including 30-day readmissions.

"Improving health quality while lowering costly hospitalizations is what so many healthcare leaders are trying to achieve," said lead study author Shreya Kangovi, MD. "It's remarkable that these results were achieved not by an expensive drug or technology, but from good old-fashioned social support."

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