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Jennifer Snow at Greenville Health System: Shining a Light on New Opportunities in Population Health

  • Article by:Health Career Center
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This is the first in a series of profiles focusing on people taking on some of the new jobs in health care that have been created over the past few years. For an overview of some of these jobs, read New Roles for a Redesigned Healthcare system: Challenges and Opportunities.


Profile: Jennifer Snow
Employer: Greenville Health System
Title: Director of Accountable Communities
Education: BS, Public Relations, University of South Carolina; MBA, Clemson University
Years in current position: 1.5
Years in health care: 4

 

Jennifer Snow’s job as Director of Accountable Communities at Greenville Health System didn’t exist before she stepped into the role in July 2014. In fact, the term “Accountable Communities” is still pretty new, even within the healthcare sector.

Accountable communities are an offshoot of the trend toward accountable care. Both concepts grow out of health care’s new emphasis on population health. While accountable care organizations (ACOs) focus on the delivery of comprehensive healthcare to a population, accountable communities involve identifying and developing resources within neighborhoods to help residents stay healthy and out of the hospital.

“We know that access to care is limited, and we have to expand beyond the traditional medical home,” Snow explains. “That’s where accountable communities come into play.”

According to calculations by the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program, traditional health care accounts for only 20 percent of a population’s overall health. The other 80 percent of that communities health can be traced to the social determinants of health: health behaviors (such as diet and exercise, substance abuse, unsafe sex), social and economic factors (education, employment, income, social supports, safety) and the physical environment.

Snow focuses on a big chunk of that 80 percent. Her department has spearheaded a number of new initiatives, including mobile health clinic that makes care more convenient, outreach programs that identify people at risk for hospitalization, community gardens to produce healthy vegetables and walking trails to increase exercise.

“We use community asset mapping to try to figure out what kinds of programs the community needs to become healthier,” says Snow. Whereas health providers have previously focused on identifying an individual’s healthcare needs, now the health system is identifying health needs on a neighborhood or a population basis.

Analyzing data from hospital emergency rooms and first responders, Greenville Health System has identified five area neighborhoods where residents are at the greatest risk for illness and hospitalization. They established Neighborhood Health Partners, a program that goes into those communities to address the residents’ health needs. Aware of the shortage of clinicians, especially physicians, Snow has been looking at new ways of extending the reach of the healthcare system including partnering with community partners and safety-net providers.

Snow’s department recently hired people for two new roles: Community Paramedic and Community Health Worker. Traditionally, paramedics have taken the role of first responders who transport injured or ill patients to the hospital. The job of Community Paramedics builds on that role. These trained first responders visit community residents in their homes to problem-solve about the issues and needs that compel them to call 911 or go to the emergency room for health care that could be provided or prevented by regular visits to a primary care clinician.

“The paramedics we’ve been looking for and identifying [for these jobs] are the ones who are passionate about the continuity of care and have a vested interest in the overall health of the patient rather than traditional paramedic mindset of ‘treat and release,’” says Snow.

Some of the new opportunities in population health don’t require prior healthcare experience. Arranging transportation, setting up pillboxes, helping people get nutritious food or needed services doesn’t require a clinical degree, Snow points out, but these activities can make a great difference to a patient’s health. In many areas, including Greenville, trusted members of the community—Community Health Workers—are filling this role.

Snow looks for culturally-diverse candidates who “have a passion for patients and helping them meet a need. We’re looking for people who are good at communicating with people, are resourceful and are willing to go above and beyond.” She adds that almost anyone with motivation and an interest in health can be trained to do this work.

Snow herself has demonstrated that people without direct healthcare experience can make a significant impact in a re-designed healthcare system. She studied public relations in college and then later went on to earn a Master’s in Business Administration while working for the Girl Scouts of South Carolina and at a technical institute. She joined the staff of Greenville Health System in 2011, just after the passage of the Accountable Care Act, and learned on the job about alternative payment models and other aspects of healthcare reform. “My knowledge is kind of homegrown from working with well-educated and well-versed people and getting to be part of pilot programs as they were being built.”

 

Stay tuned to find out more about how other organizations like Greenville Health System are adapting their workforce to overcome the challenges of a changing healthcare field.

Do you have an interesting job that your organization has recently created? Share below in the comments field!