To drive down health care costs and improve outcomes for patients with chronic illnesses, New York’s Northwell Health hospital system is training health care workers who can better relate to—and help—people from underserved and largely minority communities.
Less than a year old, Northwell’s program has trained nearly 30 people to become community health workers, a nonmedical, entry-level job at the front lines of serving hard-to-reach patients in vulnerable communities, many of whom use Medicaid.
Parts of the job might include scheduling patients’ transportation, calling to ensure medication is taken, signing patients up for public benefits, or working one-on-one during routine care following an illness or to manage a chronic condition like diabetes.
The role typically requires earning patients’ trust, getting them to talk about their health and encouraging them to be receptive to care, workers say. People with varied life experience and history within a particular community are top recruits, according to Nancy Copperman, vice president of community health at Northwell.