Research has shown the healing power of art, and our member hospitals have developed creative programs in which they utilize art in a variety of forms to enhance patient healing, staff satisfaction and community partnerships.

Many of the local artists involved in these programs gain important benefits such as exposure for their work and the opportunity to share it with those who need it most. But what happens when the artist becomes the patient?

Many full-time artists are uninsured. And the challenges they face accessing health care has led them to become an at-risk population. But two hospitals within the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) have implemented an innovative program that allows artists to barter their talent for health care services.

On Jan. 23, Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx launched Lincoln Art Exchange, aimed at reducing health disparities and improving outcomes among New York artists. Through the program, artists earn health credits for time spent providing service to the hospital.

For example, an artist who spends one hour painting a mural at Lincoln Medical and Health Center will earn 40 health credits – the equivalent of $40 – toward medical care. The health credits can be used for a variety of services, from doctor visits and lab tests to dental care and prescriptions.

The program will follow the sliding fee scale offered through HHC Options, an HHC financial services program for low-income or uninsured New Yorkers.

Lincoln and HHC are working with multiple partners to implement the program, including noted artists and arts and philanthropic organizations. According to Iris Jimenez-Hernandez, HHC senior vice president and Lincoln executive director, the collaboration “is an important element in identifying and recruiting artists that will benefit from our program.”

Lincoln Art Exchange is the second program of its kind for HHC. The first, called Artist Access, was implemented at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Brooklyn in 2005. And according to an April 2011 Parade article, more than 600 artists have since taken part.

These innovative health care solutions are serving a distinct New York population, which brings the city much of its life. Without thriving, healthy artists, the vibrant city landscape would surely dim.

According to Alan D. Aviles, HHC president and chief executive officer, the timely program “will empower artists of all types – who add immeasurably to our City’s vibrancy and cultural riches – to access quality health care on the basis of their art and live longer and healthier lives.”