August 12, 2016: Patients challenged with social determinants of health are more likely to incur higher health care costs due to their inability to adhere to prescribed medical recommendations and their inefficient use of health care resources. Some of these challenges can be resolved with legal intervention. The Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) model has demonstrated positive impact on improving health outcomes by addressing civil legal needs of vulnerable populations.  At Christiana Care Health System, a legal team from Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (CLASI) is collaborating with clinical staff to determine and help resolve patients’ legal needs, which will improve their ability to manage all the determinants of their health. We are conducting an evaluation of the efficacy of the medical-legal collaboration on improved patient outcomes. Process measures describe the type of services needed by patients and how they are delivered by examining how many and types of referrals, hours spent on each referral, source of referral, patient demographics and legal outcome. Outcome measures assess whether the MLP improves patient outcomes in quality of life and perceived stress.

Susan Howard-Smola is a Senior Clinical Researcher at the Value Instistute at Christiana Care Health System. She has doctoral training in public health with an emphasis in program evaluation and qualitative methods and a law degree from the Delaware Law School at the Widener University with a Health Law Certificate. Her research is primarily in the area of population health, program evaluation and health policy.