Effect of Community Health Worker Support on Clinical Outcomes of Low-Income Patients Across Primary Care Facilities: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Abstract [from journal]

Importance: Addressing the social determinants of health has been difficult for health systems to operationalize.

Objective: To assess a standardized intervention, Individualized Management for Patient-Centered Targets (IMPaCT), delivered by community health workers (CHWs) across 3 health systems.

Design, Setting, and Participants: This 2-armed, single-blind, multicenter randomized clinical trial recruited patients from 3 primary care facilities in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, between January 28, 2015, and March 28, 2016. Patients who resided in a high-poverty zip code, were uninsured or publicly insured, and who had a diagnosis for 2 or more chronic diseases were recruited, and patients were randomized to either the CHW intervention or the control arm (goal setting only). Follow-up assessments were conducted at 6 and 9 months after enrollment. Data were analyzed using an intention-to-treat approach from June 2017 to March 2018.

Intervention: Participants set a chronic disease management goal with their primary care physician; those randomized to the CHW intervention received 6 months of tailored support.

Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcome was change in self-rated physical health. The secondary outcomes were self-rated mental health, chronic disease control, patient activation, patient-reported quality of primary care, and all-cause hospitalization.

Results: Of the 592 participants, 370 (62.5%) were female, with a mean (SD) age of 52.6 (11.1) years. Participants in both arms had similar improvements in self-rated physical health (mean [SD], 1.8 [11.2] vs 1.6 [9.9]; P = .89). Patients in the intervention group were more likely to report the highest quality of care (odds ratio [OR], 1.8; 95% CI, 1.4-2.4; risk difference [RD], 0.12; P < .001) and spent fewer total days in the hospital at 6 months (155 days vs 345 days; absolute event rate reduction, 69%) and 9 months (300 days vs 471 days; absolute event rate reduction, 65%). This reduction was driven by a shorter average length of stay (difference, –3.1 days; 95% CI, –6.33 to 0.22; P = .06) and a lower mean number of hospitalizations (difference, –0.3; 95% CI, –0.6 to 0.0; P = .07) among patients who were hospitalized. Patients in the intervention group had a lower odds of repeat hospitalizations (OR, 0.4; 95% CI, 0.2-0.9; RD, –0.24; P = .02), including 30-day readmissions (OR, 0.3; 95% CI, 0.1-0.9; RD, –0.17; P = .04).

Conclusions and Relevance: A standardized intervention did not improve self-rated health but did improve the patient-perceived quality of care while reducing hospitalizations, suggesting that health systems may use a standardized intervention to address the social determinants of health.

Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT02347787