In a joint op-Ed, the CEOs of Mount Sinai Health System and NYC Health + Hospitals — two of the nation’s largest health systems — share why their patients need more than good medicine to be healthy, why they invest in lawyers & medical-legal partnership with LegalHealth, and why other health systems should too.
By Dr. Kenneth L. Davis, president and chief executive of Mount Sinai Health System and
Dr. Ramanathan Raju, president and chief executive of NYC Health + Hospitals
“As administrators of two of the largest health systems in the nation, we have long known that the best patient care cannot be delivered exclusively inside the walls of our facilities.
No matter how talented the staff or how cutting-edge the technology, we cannot do our jobs unless we look outside the hospital and into the reality of our patients’ lives. And in particular for the poor and low-income New Yorkers we serve, that reality can be bleak. Many are homeless or precariously housed, undernourished and have limited education.
The poor face substantial barriers to good health. An estimated 40% of health outcomes are shaped not by genetics or bad habits, but by powerful social and economic factors—notably income, education and employment. They are more likely to become disabled or develop cancer or cardiovascular disease. They have less access to healthy food or money to buy it, which leads to obesity, hypertension and diabetes. They often lack private insurance, don’t know the health care benefits they are entitled to, or can’t navigate the insurance system.
Our hospital systems—one public and one private—have launched initiatives to address these issues. One of the most successful involves a partnership with an unlikely source: lawyers.
Doctors and lawyers are not known as allies, but improving health care for the poor requires changing the way we think. So hospitals have forged relationships with legal-service providers. Across the country, attorneys are training medical professionals to understand the legal issues their patients face and are being integrated into low-income patients’ health care teams to address legal problems that impede treatment or recovery.”