Sanford launches findhelp to connect patients with financial assistance

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) – When it comes to healthcare, Sanford Health wants to go beyond just caring for physical health, which is why they recently launched a website to address the social and economic needs of their patients.

Last month, the health system partnered with findhelp.org to create a Sanford findhelp website. It’s a vision that took nearly three years to develop according to Chief Nursing, Erica Debor.

While working with care teams across the region, DeBoer has heard from managers that they spend a lot of time managing community resources to help patients meet other needs outside the health system. So, I started trying to better understand what they were going through.

“What are those things that they had to spend a lot of time doing to try and meet our patient’s needs?” DeBoer said.

Some of these needs can include food assistance, transportation, financial assistance for medications, assistance in preschool or other social determinants that affect a person’s health. Services offered on the new website are either free or have a reduced cost and coverage options may not be included with Medicare or Medicaid.

Lindsay Daniels is the System Executive Director of Care Management at Sanford and has experience as a care manager in this area. Daniels said that in one-on-one conversations with patients, she often encountered issues patients faced beyond what she could do for them at their appointment. She explained that this site helps care teams meet those needs.

“Knowing who is serving when the patient is in front of me and needs to know how they are going to put food on their table at the end of the day, and also knowing that they need a specific diet, perhaps, about what kind of condition they were in or how they would have paid for their medication in addition to paying for the food who would encounter them.”

How it works?

The site is direct and can be accessed through this Link Or through the MyChart app for patients. Once on the site, you just have to enter your zip code and choose the category that best suits your needs. After you do this, you will be provided with a list of resources with information about what the organization does, how to contact them, their opening hours, and a map of where the resources are in your area.

When a patient visits a clinic, Daniels said he might mention in conversation that he struggles to pay their bills and that may affect the medication they can tolerate. In this case, the care team can provide the patient with financial resources in a post-visit summary, direct them to a location to seek help, or make a referral on the patient’s behalf.

“It kind of weighs on the hearts of employees when they don’t have an answer for patients,” Daniels said. “So, this ability to only refer them to the website printed on their site [After Visit Summary] A great way to do that.”

The database includes hundreds of resources for patients and will only increase the more they are used, according to DeBoer and Daniels.

Daniels explained that not only can care teams direct patients to resources, they can also send referrals to community organizations with patient consent. This means that if a patient wants to be connected to a food pantry, for example, the Sanford care team will communicate on the patient’s behalf and provide the pantry with the best way to contact that patient and in the language they prefer.

“This puts all the stress on our system and not on the patient to have to call and follow up with these referrals,” Daniels said.

DeBoer said the vision behind the website is Sanford’s goal to address the social determinants of health and how a person can take care of themselves.

“COVID has really shined a bright light on the fact that we have a lot of people who are insecure about food, transportation and more,” DeBoer said. “When you think about how that got worse, it also motivated us more.”

Given the vast reach of Sanford’s footprint and rural care, DeBoer said that not everyone has the same access to resources as those in major cities. The website then helps patients find the most accessible resources where they are.

In the past, Sanford care teams have worked to find resources for patients, but DeBoer says this site allows them to better serve patients and gives them the option to navigate those resources themselves. It also allows teams to provide resources for patients who may be outside the communities in which they seek care.

With inflation continuing to affect everything from gas prices to food and housing, DeBoer says the challenges some patients face may be compounded and affect how they keep themselves healthy or take care of their families.

DeBoer added that the partnership between findhelp and Sanford also allows Sanford to address inequality in the community by partnering with existing services that meet patients’ needs.

“It’s really our chance to engage with our communities as well.”

Through the partnership, findhelp curates the database to find and verify community resources via the Sanford fingerprint. This means wherever there is a Sanford or Good Samaritan location.

Now, Daniels says that when a patient comes to an appointment or calls the health system with a question, they’ll have plenty of resources to help find the answer that works best for the patient.

“We provide world-class healthcare, and we want to be able to connect our patients with the people and partners in our community who also provide this kind of care,” Daniels said.