By Keith C. Kosel, PhD, MHSA, MBA, Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation.
We’ve all experienced crises in our lives. They may be personal in nature (e.g., involving our interpersonal relationships), organizational (e.g., relating to our employment or retirement income) or nature-made (e.g., floods, tornados, or the COVID-19 pandemic). When crises hit our communities, the impacts can be widespread and far-reaching.
Healthcare providers and community-based organizations (CBOs) are called upon to provide more rapid and extensive care and support to the community than is otherwise the norm. A well-established and highly functioning Connected Community of Care (CCC), as is the case here in Dallas, Texas, can provide a tremendous strategic and tactical advantage over non-connected peers.
Since 2014, the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation (PCCI) has led an effort to bring together several large healthcare systems and a number of regional social-service organizations such as food banks, homeless assistance associations, and transportation service vendors, along with over 100 smaller CBOs (i.e., neighborhood food pantries, crisis centers, utility assistance centers) and area faith-based organizations to form the Dallas CCC.
Over time, civic organizations, such as the Community Council of Greater Dallas, Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS), and select academic institutions have begun to participate in various community-wide projects under the Dallas CCC umbrella. Central to the success of the Dallas CCC are the partnerships that have been formed between the CBOs and a number of local healthcare systems (Parkland Health & Hospital System [Parkland], Baylor Scott & White Health, Children’s Medical Center, Methodist Health System, and Metrocare Services), clinical practices, and other ancillary healthcare providers serving the Dallas metroplex. These partnerships have proved essential in building a truly comprehensive and functional network aimed at improving both the health and well-being of Dallas residents.
Connecting these various entities and forming a two-way communication pathway is an electronic information exchange platform termed Pieces Connect, which allows for real-time, two-way sharing of information pertaining to an individual’s social and healthcare needs, history, and preferences.
The information exchange platform is the glue that holds the physical network together and provides one of the mechanisms to disseminate information from public health and healthcare entities to social service providers in the community. It allows the individual community resident, via the CBO, to become better informed about important health issues, such as routine vaccinations or preventive care, such as social distancing and proper mask usage during a pandemic.
Until recently, the primary mission of the Dallas CCC focused on addressing residents’ social determinants of health (SDOH) issues through providing community resources (e.g., food assistance, housing, transportation) to improve the lives of Dallas County residents. While this mission has become even more critical during the COVID-19 pandemic, the work of the Dallas CCC has also evolved to include identifying COVID-19 sites within the County and directing community outreach efforts to help stem the rapid spread of the virus.