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Reinvesting ACO Savings to Address Social Determinants of Health

The following study, published in the November issue of Health Affairs, explores how Hennepin Health, an accountable care organization (ACO) operated by America’s Essential Hospitals member Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), the Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department, NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center, and Metropolitan Health Plan used cost savings to address the social determinants of health.

Hennepin Health: A Safety-Net Accountable Care Organization for The Expanded Medicaid Population Health Affairs (subscription only)


Hennepin Health began enrolling patients in 2012 with the aim of increasing the use of preventive care and reducing preventable hospital admissions and emergency department (ED) visits for vulnerable patients. The ACO uses an interdisciplinary care coordination model to meet patients’ physical, behavioral, social, and economic needs.

Between 2012 and 2013, ED visits decreased 9.1 percent and outpatient visits increased 3.3 percent. Plus, an increased number of patients received optimal diabetes, vascular, and asthma care.

Hennepin Health uses the savings created to invest in initiatives that address the social determinants of health, including the following:

  • funding nursing staff for respite beds at a homeless shelter
  • working with local organizations to fund interim housing for people who cannot be discharged from the hospital due to insecure housing
  • launching a pilot psychiatric consultation service in primary care


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