The vignette about Mr Alberts is familiar to all of us working in safety-net hospitals. “Frequent flyer” patients may be young or old, male or female, and of any ethnicity. What they have in common is that their problems are not solvable by hospitals or medical systems. Yes, we can treat their pneumonias, skin abscesses, and in Mr Alberts's case their chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder exacerbations, but we are ill-equipped to treat poverty, homelessness, addictions, and loneliness. We spend large sums of money on medical care, including expensive diagnostic tests, and then shake our heads at the inability of our society to pay relatively small sums to provide food, housing, and transportation to medical visits.
Katz MH. The Value of Community Health WorkersComment on Community Health Workers Combat Readmission. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(22):1758. doi:10.1001/2013.jamainternmed.105