Several factors, including changes in reimbursement, have motivated some hospitals to invest in community housing projects, according to NPR.
In the 1990s, 50 percent of the children in Southern Orchards — near Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Children’s Hospital — lived in poverty. Through a partnership called the Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families initiative, Columbus, community groups like United Way, and Nationwide Children’s began to invest in the neighborhood’s homes. In 2008, the organizations started renovating vacant homes for resale, building affordable housing and funding renovations for homeowners.
With a $6.6 million infusion from Nationwide Children’s, the $22 million project led to the construction of 58 affordable housing units, 71 renovated homes and 15 new homes. The organizations also gave out 149 home improvement grants from 2008 to 2018, according to the report, which cites Pediatrics.
Kelly Kelleher, MD, director of the Center for Innovation in Pediatric Practice at Nationwide Children’s, writes in Pediatrics that Nationwide Children’s is treating “the neighborhood as a patient.” The hospital is attempting to mend harmful socio-economic and physical environments in the hope it will lower the prevalence of health issues caused by those conditions. The investment could pay for itself if the number of hospital visits from Southern Orchards neighborhood falls, said Dr. Kelleher.
Hospitals across the country are taking similar approaches, though not as direct as owning and operating housing in a certain neighborhood, according to Megan Sandel, MD, who helps direct Boston Medical Center’s housing initiative. Dr. Sandel said Boston Medical Center’s projects are owned and operated by other community organizations. Similar projects are off the ground in Seattle, Boston, Atlanta and New York, among other places.
A potential motivator for these projects is a shift from fee-for-service medicine to reimbursement based on improving quality of care, according to the report. Some states are even starting to give healthcare organizations funding to manage populations.