Improving Health Care in Memphis, Tenn.

In the middle of the last decade, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, Memphis’s largest hospital system, began teaming up with churches to address the city’s abysmal health situation and reduce the cost of care. This collaboration has grown into the Congregational Health Network, which has received attention in national public health circles, and from the Obama administration, for reducing the costs of care and improving outcomes for low-income patients. The Memphis method offers lessons to hospitals nationwide wrestling with similar problems. But successfully replicating the program will depend on hospitals’ ability to rethink their function in the communities they serve. Could the answer really be as simple as a woman testifying in church about the importance of mammograms?

In Salon, Alex Halperin reports on the “Memphis model,” a health network partnership between hospitals and congregations in Memphis, Tenn.—one of the poorest metro areas in the U.S. and one of the “least healthy”—that has resulted in treating more people and saving hospitals millions in annual costs. Essentially, getting more people treated through the network has resulted in fewer expensive hospital stays for patients who avoid help until the last minute, and partnering with congregations has created a support network for patients to turn to before and after they receive treatment.

Photo: Daniel

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