291 Campus Drive
The PHATE of Communities
Most physicians have little understanding of the neighborhoods they serve or the social factors that affect the people who live there. We know that social factors are among the most potent effectors of life outcomes and that neighborhood social factors can be reliable markers for identifying personal risk. Even as health care starves social services that can improve outcomes, health care is feeling pressure to fill the gap and address patient and community risks. Nonprofit hospitals, health departments, and community health centers are already required to assess their communities and commit resources to addressing problems. Community Health Centers were born out of Community Oriented Primary Care, a systematic approach to defining, assessing, engaging, and assisting community, but that legacy is largely lost.
PHATE is a population health tool commissioned by the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) and developed in collaboration with the Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems (CARES) at the University of Missouri. PHATE provides clinicians with a fuller understanding of their patient population in the context of their community. PHATE utilizes patient and community data to define and assess a practice service area, and to point to community resources. When integrated with a registry or EHR it can also attach a Community Vital Sign to each patient and identify disease or quality “hotspots.” The ABFM aspires to use PHATE and other claims data to define the geography of primary care. This geography can help policymakers understand holes in access to care, guide investments in health professions training to fill them, and identify other solutions to pools of health inequity.