Skip to main content

New Student Hotspotting Hub Aims at Improving Patient Care & Value

A small percentage of patients account for a disproportionate share of health care costs. The University of Utah Health Interprofessional Education (IPE) Program is working to change this, joining the National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs' new Interprofessional Student Hotspotting Learning Collaborative. The Collaborative is a newly established network of 4 interprofessional student hotspotting hubs receiving grant support from the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers.

The Hotspotting Hub also partners with Dr. Sara Hart from the College of Nursing and Dr. Marilyn Luptak from the College of Social Work, who are leading hotspotting teams under an "Accelerating IPE" grant from the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education, as well as Dr. Kyle Turner from the College of Pharmacy. Students from a variety of educational backgrounds will work together to help the most vulnerable patients get the care and support they need to stay healthy.

"Our eight hotspotting teams will focus on what we call the social determinants of health – conditions that are of equal or greater importance than medical factors in contributing to frequent ED visits and hospital readmissions," said Timothy Farrell, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Utah and Director of the University of Utah Health IPE Program. "Conditions that the students are likely to encounter and address include substance abuse, poverty, and homelessness, as well as limited access to transportation, caregiver supports and other social resources that may contribute to high utilization of health care resources."

Since the needs of the patients are wide and varied, the hotspotting teams include students from all Health Sciences colleges and schools; the College of Social Work; and undergraduates including Health, Society & Policy majors and Honors College. Forty students comprise the 8 hotspotting teams and are supported by interprofessional faculty advisors. The teams each specialize in serving a certain population including refugees, Spanish-speaking patients, older adults, and previously homeless individuals. While helping patients navigate their health care, students will be learning to identify and address social determinants of health. They will not actually be providing care themselves.

The launch of the hotspotting teams is a natural extension of University of Utah Health's Value Driven Outcomes (VDO) tool. VDO is about understanding the true costs of health care at the granular level and how those costs relate to outcomes.

"Our students will be applying the Value Driven Outcomes tool to evaluate the impact of the hotspotting intervention," said Farrell. "This will provide synergy between our educational mission and our efforts to improve care and reduce costs. Hopefully we will be able to move the needle on both fronts. This is the next frontier of interprofessional education and collaborative practice – a partnership with the health care system that provides value with respect to improving health outcomes, preparing the next generation of health care providers to work in teams to meet the needs of increasingly complex patients, and reducing health care costs."

"This really is a win-win," Farrell added. "Better support means fewer interventions. Fewer interventions mean better health and lower costs."