May 14, 2011

Medical-Legal Partnership Improves Health Care Experience for 400 Patients

Since the creation of Indiana's first medical-legal partnership (MLP) in 2008 by Wishard Health Services, the Indiana Health Coalition and Baker & Daniels LLP, physicians and social workers have made approximately 400 referrals to Wishard MLP-affiliated attorneys, the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems reported.

The MLP integrates resources for Wishard patients with problems that require more than what the typical health care provider independently can resolve. Through referrals by physicians and social workers, Baker and Daniels' attorneys provide legal aid services to Wishard patients whose health care needs require social solutions. Physicians and hospital staff receive training on the social impacts of health so they may refer relevant cases to social workers and attorneys directly.

Baker & Daniels, the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic and Indiana Legal Services provide their services to referred patients on-site at Wishard on a pro bono basis, increasing convenience, comfort and efficiency in helping patients. Each firm brings its own expertise to the Wishard MLP. Baker & Daniels works most closely with Wishard's EMBRACE program, which provides supportive and holistic services to women undergoing cancer treatment. Baker & Daniels also serves patients by providing end of life legal services.

"As physicians, we recognize the major role that social and environmental factors play in contributing to chronic illness, often impairing our ability to achieve optimal outcomes for our patients," Dr. Lisa Harris, Wishard's CEO and medical director, told the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems. "Through this extraordinary partnership with lawyers who can also serve as powerful patient advocates, we're able to assist patients in making positive changes that will frequently result not only in improved health but in improved quality of life."

The American Bar Association recently awarded Baker & Daniels with its 2011 Outstanding Pro Bono Advocacy in Medical-Legal Partnership Award for this work. Additionally, the Indianapolis Bar Foundation awarded the Wishard MLP and Baker & Daniels the 2010 Pro Bono Publico Award for its collaborative partnership in providing access to legal aid.

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