The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated barriers to food security and housing security for many Bostonians. To address this need, students and faculty at the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston University School of Social Work (BUSSW) partnered with community partners and the City to develop an outreach call center to link COVID-19 patients with local resources. The establishment of the THRIVE COVID Call Center (TCC) and outcome data will be presented.
Methods: Case study design was used to explore program outcomes (Harrison et al., 2017; Yin, 2017). This case study draws on TCC data extracted from the electronic medical record (Epic) inclusive of call volume and number of patients reached; THRIVE Directory reports which are used to document referrals; and student surveys. Extracted medical record and directory data as well as survey data were uploaded and merged. Descriptive statistics were then calculated. Initial analyses along with program documents were then discussed by the team and used to construct the case.
Results: Faculty and students established the TCC at Boston Medical Center, the region’s largest safety-net hospital. Twelve medical students supported by two social work students contacted and screened COVID-19 patients using the THRIVE screening tool. Then drawing on an online repository of resources patients were connected with community resources such as in-home food deliveries as well as city and state resources related to housing security. Between 10/2020 and 03/2021, 312 patients were served and 478 referrals were made, with a mean of 1.53 referrals per patient. Patients were most often referred to City programs (n=188), followed by Boston Medical Center programs (n=133) and Local Non-Profits (n=70). The most common primary support area was Food. The City of Boston Food Delivery service was the most frequently used referral site (n=148 referrals).
Conclusions and Implications: COVID-19 served as a catalyst for medical and social work school faculty and students to launch a call center to address patient social needs. Pre-existing relationships along with city partnerships facilitated the team’s ability to collaborate with partners to address factors such as food insecurity and housing instability, which are not always the focus of medical care. Providers are uniquely poised to document how neighborhood level conditions impact individual wellbeing and social workers play an important role in linking them with community and neighborhood efforts aimed at improving living conditions.