In 2019, North Carolina revolutionized coordinated care by launching NCCARE360, the first statewide network that electronically connects providers and community organizations together through a shared technology, allowing them to collaborate in addressing the social needs of their shared clients. Efforts to implement the program across the state soon ramped up, as the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the great number of North Carolinians who needed support in addressing social needs like housing, food, and transportation. By June 2020, NCCARE360 was active in all 100 counties in the state with almost 3,000 cases referred through the network. We were off to the races and excited about all of the connections being made in the platform that would result in better health outcomes in North Carolina.
With NCCARE360 fully implemented statewide, we work hard every day to continue growing the network. While it is robust and transformative, we know the technology is only as good as the network partners who are trained and empowered to use it to better serve their patients and clients. Our implementation partners regularly offer trainings and support, but almost as important as knowing how to use the technology is the capacity of organizations to respond to the referrals they receive. Organizations need plenty of people and resources to effectively answer the call and not being able to keep up with the demand is one of the most reported challenges among NCCARE360 users. Additionally, users wanted someone in their corner who could provide guidance and additional support when the going got tough.
To help organizations address these challenges, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) and FHLI worked together to disburse funding from the CDC’s Coronavirus Response & Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act to local organizations dedicated to advancing health equity by tackling these social needs through their use of NCCARE360. This resulted in the NCCARE360 Community Organization and Network Support Agency Health Equity Grants.
These grants provided funding to community organizations to help increase their use of NCCARE360, to help them connect the people they serve to other community services, and to increase their own ability to respond to referrals. They also allowed FHLI to create a new role called Network Support Agencies (NSAs) for organizations to serve as local hubs and support clusters for community-based organizations currently on the NCCARE360 network, providing meaningful platform guidance and navigation. These grants work across healthcare and community organizations to create cross-sector partnerships to better address whole-person health.
NSAs are working diligently with organizations in their regions to increase their use of NCCARE360, recruit new organizations to join the network, and/or provide strategic planning and network navigation assistance to all platform users. They are also collaborating with large health systems in the region to assure there are resources available to patients who are discharged from hospitals. There are currently four NSAs working in the Triangle and Triad regions, preforming a plethora of activities to achieve grant goals such as providing direct NCCARE360 navigation which included instructions on sending and receiving referrals and workflow assistance, providing NCCARE360 overview information to various community organizations in multiple counties, performing outreach to various community organizations to encourage them to join NCCARE360, and creating monthly virtual town hall meetings to discuss NCCARE360.
By helping organizations boost their knowledge of NCCARE360 and increase their capacity to provide resources, NSAs are ensuring that more services are available to meet the social needs of our families and neighbors. At the end of the grant period, we aim to provide data demonstrating the impact of these funds in advancing health equity so that we may expand coverage to the western and eastern regions of the state where social needs are still prevalent. In the meantime, we will continue to grow the NCCARE360 network to better connect North Carolinians to the services they need to be healthy and well and to foster and strengthen sustainable partnerships between healthcare and community-based organizations to address overall health, not just healthcare.
To learn more about the health equity grants and recipients, visit our website at https://nccare360.org/community-funding/past-funding-opportunities/