Embedding social workers in veterans health administration primary care teams reduces emergency department visits

Health Affairs

While an emerging body of evidence suggests that medical homes may yield more benefits than traditional care models do, the role of social workers within medical homes has yet to be evaluated separately. We assessed the impact of an initiative to add social workers to rural primary care teams in the Veterans Health Administration on patients’ use of social work services, hospital admissions, and emergency department visits. We found that introducing a social worker increased social work encounters by 33 percent among all veterans who received care. Among high-risk patients, we observed a 4.4 percent decrease in the number of veterans who had any acute hospital admission and a 3.0 percent decrease in veterans who had any emergency department visit, after the introduction of a social worker. Investing in social workers is a key strategy for addressing the social determinants of health and managing care coordination for high-risk, high-need populations.

Cornell PY, Halladay CW, Ader J, et al. Embedding social workers in veterans health administration primary care teams reduces emergency department visits. Health Aff (Millwood). 2020;39(4):603-612. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2019.01589

Publication Year: 
2020
Resource Type: 
Peer Reviewed Research
Study Design: 
Pre-post with Comparison Group
Population: 
Veterans
Outcomes: 
Utilization
Screening Research: 
No