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July 20, 2020

Hospital Investments in Housing—Banner of Change or Red Flag?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Medical student, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 4Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
JAMA Intern Med. Published online July 20, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.2348

Departing from their traditional roles, hospital-based health systems are investing in social services for patients. Four of 5 US hospitals report a commitment to addressing patients’ social needs.1 The American Hospital Association now offers guidance for how hospitals can address transportation barriers, nutritional assistance, and housing instability.

To date, most hospital spending on social needs has focused on housing. From 2017 to 2019, health systems spent $2.5 billion to address social determinants of health, of which $1.6 billion was for housing interventions.2 Some hospitals provide rent support or lease apartments for transitional housing, while others build new, stable housing units for patients who are homeless.

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