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Patterns of Collaboration among Health Care and Social Services Providers in Communities with Lower Health Care Utilization and Costs

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Health Services Research

Published online on


Objective To understand how health care providers and social services providers coordinate their work in communities that achieve relatively low health care utilization and costs for older adults. Study Setting Sixteen Hospital Service Areas (HSAs) in the United States. Study Design We conducted a qualitative study of HSAs with performance in the top or bottom quartiles nationally across three key outcomes: ambulatory care sensitive hospitalizations, all‐cause risk‐standardized readmission rates, and average reimbursements per Medicare beneficiary. We selected 10 higher performing HSAs and six lower performing HSAs for inclusion in the study. Data Collection To understand patterns of collaboration in each community, we conducted site visits and in‐depth interviews with a total of 245 representatives of health care organizations, social service agencies, and local government bodies. Principal Findings Organizations in higher performing communities regularly worked together to identify challenges faced by older adults in their areas and responded through collective action—in some cases, through relatively unstructured coalitions, and in other cases, through more hierarchical configurations. Further, hospitals in higher performing communities routinely matched patients with needed social services. Conclusions The collaborative approaches used by higher performing communities, if spread, may be able to improve outcomes elsewhere.