Virginia building e-referral system to connect hospitals with social services

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (Governor Ralph Northam / Virginia)

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As COVID-19 cases rise in Virginia during the holiday season, Gov. Ralph Northam has announced a $10 million investment of the state’s CARES Act funding will go toward a new statewide technology platform to connect government agencies, health care providers and residents.

The e-referral system, called United Virginia, will integrate existing electronic medical record systems used by hospitals and medical care facilities. The platform is intended to make it easier for health care providers to refer patients to social service organizations that provide food, housing, transportation and employment services. It’s also designed to collect data from health care organizations, enabling state policymakers to make more informed decisions about where to send resources and funding to improve public health outcomes.

The technology will be supplied by Unite US, a software manufacturer that’s providing similar services to communities in 40 other states and a statewide system in North Carolina. The network is to become a “critical” part of Virginia’s overarching public health framework, Northam said, fulfilling a longtime goal of state health officials.

“Developing this type of e-referral system has been a longstanding goal of our statewide Partnering for a Healthy Virginia initiative,” State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver said in a press release. “With this funding, we can take the necessary steps to continue our important work on promoting health equity and addressing the social factors that influence individual and community health. This work is more important now than ever because the economic harm and isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially hard on vulnerable Virginians.”

The CARES Act funding will support the initial startup and implementation costs of the statewide network, Northam’s office said.

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CARES Act, coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Ralph Northam, healthcare, Unite US, Virginia
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