Idaho HIE partners with Aunt Bertha to help bridge clinical-social gap

Users working in a patient's record can access Aunt Bertha's network of more than 2,000 organizations.
By Kat Jercich
10:57 AM

Idaho's statewide health information exchange announced a new partnership this past week with the social service search and referral program Aunt Bertha.

The move allows users to access Aunt Bertha's network of more than 2,000 social service organizations as they work in a patient's record.

"This partnership will provide support for a more complete, well-coordinated service through a single access point to an individual’s medical record for referral capabilities," said Idaho Health Data Exchange Executive Director Hans Kastensmith in a statement.


Systemic inequities contribute hugely to a person's health and well-being, with factors such as racism, environmental hazards, and socioeconomic imbalances sometimes leading to medical concerns that can't be wholly addressed in a clinical setting.

At the same time, it may be difficult to find the nonprofits and other organizations dedicated to addressing some of these needs.

Aunt Bertha seeks to bridge that gap by helping users to find programs dedicated to affordable housing, childcare expenses, food distribution, transit assistance and education, among others. 

The collaboration with IHDE will establish a platform that aims to improve health outcomes throughout the state. 

“Aunt Bertha began with a simple idea – that every person and family should be able to find help with dignity and ease,” said Erine Gray, Aunt Bertha founder and CEO, in a statement.

“Now, with our partnership with IHDE, we are able to do just that for thousands of Idahoans," Gray continued.


The healthcare industry has slowly been incorporating social determinants of health into care, acknowledging that addressing nonclinical variables can help play a key role in patients' well-being.

HIEs can help bridge that gap. Other state networks, such as Michigan's Great Lakes Health Connect, have deployed alert tools to help them better address populations' SDOH needs.

However, many health systems continue to face challenges in best incorporating these determinants into workflows, including electronic health records.

In March 2019, Dr. Jacob Reider, CEO of the Alliance for Better Health and former deputy national coordinator for health IT, told Healthcare IT News Executive Editor Mike Miliard that "we don't have a very good consistent, predictable, repeatable mechanism for expressing that somebody has food insecurity needs … or is a domestic violence victim, or has a behavior health challenge that makes it difficult to leave the house, or that they have transportation challenges." 

Some vendors have made moves toward addressing this integration. A number of population health IT tools are on the market, including offerings from Cerner, Health Catalyst, Philips and Lightbeam Health Solutions.


"As for the state’s health plans, hospital systems, and Community Based Organizations offering help, Aunt Bertha will be providing these organizations with the tools and insights to deliver the right services to the right places and to do more with less," said Gray.


Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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