Healthcare News & Insights

More hospitals offering patients legal services

In an age of value-based payments, hospitals are doing more for patients than just treating their acute problems. They’re getting to the root of some of the socioeconomic issues that can make patients’ recovery difficult. Facilities are even offering patients access to legal representation in certain cases. 

According to an article from NPR, more hospitals are putting programs into place to meet patients’ legal needs.

Right now, approximately 300 healthcare systems and facilities across the country have partnered with lawyers to help patients have access to various legal services, from name changes for transgender patients to protection orders in cases of abuse.

Changing landscape

Although hospitals haven’t traditionally gotten involved in patients’ legal issues, facilities are taking on more responsibilities as part of the shift to value-based reimbursement.

They’re seeing the patient holistically, realizing that a person’s health can’t improve if they’re worried about a significant legal problem. So, they’re connecting people with the appropriate resources to resolve the problem after their hospital stay’s complete.

Many hospitals and health systems are focusing on the patients who frequently visit hospitals or clinics, as they’re often more likely to have complex socioeconomic needs. These needs may make them more likely to be readmitted after an initial hospital stay, and hospitals are being held accountable for those outcomes.

As a way to prevent readmissions due to preventable complications, hospitals are expanding their offerings to provide various help to patients, from offering them transportation to connecting them with legal advisers.

How legal programs work

Facilities with legal programs give assistance to patients in a variety of ways. Example: Lancaster General Health/Penn Medicine in Pennsylvania has a program that helps people with complex social and health needs obtain primary care and other services.

If patients say they need help with problems such as pending evictions or substandard living conditions, Lancaster General can connect them with lawyers from MidPenn Legal Services. A legal aid attorney helps patients resolve these issues, connecting them with courts and various agencies.

Along with tenant issues, attorneys have the ability to assist patients with taking advantage of federal assistance programs for housing subsidies, as well as disability benefits and food assistance.

Funding can be difficult to obtain for these programs. Some hospitals enter financial agreements with legal aid attorneys on a contract basis to assist patients. Often, lawyers work on cases for patients pro bono. Programs also rely on state and federal grants.

Because hospitals are being called on to make all sorts of partnerships with community organizations and health providers to help improve patients’ experience across the continuum of care, it may be worthwhile for your facility to see if it’s possible to provide legal services to patients via a community partnership.

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