This summer I was pleased to work with Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy, the university’s leading research, education and engagement capabilities to inform policymaking and implementation for better health and health care. I worked at the Durham office for 10 weeks over the summer to research and make a case for a Medical Legal partnership at Academic Medical Centers, such as Duke Health.
A Medical Legal Partnership (MLP) is an interdisciplinary collaboration between a medical entity such as a hospital or clinic and a legal entity such as a lawyer, law school, or legal aid society created to address barriers to healthcare access and limitations to well-being. Many social determinants of Health are multi-faceted and nuanced. As a result, they have aspects that can fall into the realm of legal issues and the general legal system. This is why it is vital to consider utilizing legal services to address certain issues, such as housing or guardianship, that may be affecting a patient’s health outcome. Though doctors and social workers are able to identify various barriers to healthcare as well as factors that contribute to poor patient outcomes, many of these issues cannot be solved through current care systems. Therefore, introducing attorneys into patient settings can help patients navigate various legal issues that may be causing bad health outcomes.
Our methodology to determine if the MLP would be a good fit within the health system included a two-pronged approach of detailed expert interviews of specialists within the DukeHealth system and leaders from Georgetown University. then we conducted a broad literature review of observational studies and reviews. Once implemented, the purpose of our MLP would be to bring attorneys to the inpatient and outpatient settings to help them navigate various legal issues, such as lack of housing needs that could be causing a negative health outcome.
The ultimate takeaway from the conducted research is that the need for an MLP is significant because patients will be able to get help with any issues, they are facing outside their health needs. In the future, we will include efforts to obtain quantitative data, perform a detailed financial analysis, clarify to healthcare providers about the referral system and provide a link to social and legal barriers to health. Thank you to my mentors, Riya Mohan, and all the members of the Duke community who were willing to take the time to meet with us and share their expertise. I am truly grateful for this experience and fulfilled with the way it shaped my life and academic endeavors.