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Medical-Legal Collaboration at HDA

With generous support from several funders including the Chicago Bar Foundation and the Lawyer’s Trust Fund of Illinois, HDA has used its extensive experience in delivering legal services to develop another innovative collaboration. After its initial success with Project Access, the medical-legal-case management collaborative piloted in the NICUs of two Chicago area hospitals, HDA became acutely aware that patients seeking medical care from hospitals often had unmet legal needs. Frequently these legal needs became evident to hospital staff throughout the course of the individual’s medical treatment. Providers consistently reported seeing their patients experience problems such as an inability to access healthcare or a lack of financial resources available to comply with a medical care plan. This compromised not only the patient’s ability to receive essential treatment, but also their healthcare providers’ ability to provide that necessary care. In response to this need for legal services, HDA began working with staff at hospitals throughout Chicago including physicians, nurses, social workers and case managers; to identify those patients who need legal advice and/or representation. The goal was to establish a direct connection with hospital staff so that HDA attorneys could become a resource to both patients and healthcare providers. The result was the medical-legal collaboration.

In an effort to improve patients’ access to healthcare and public benefits, the medical-legal collaboration combines many of the strengths of both the medical and legal services models. When a healthcare provider becomes aware that one of his or her patients is experiencing a legal problem, the medical-legal collaboration provides them with the resources and back-up support necessary to help them facilitate a solution for their patients. Hospital staff now use HDA attorneys as a resource to get brief legal advice and consultation for their patients. If the legal issue or question is one that can be resolved easily by a phone conversation with attorneys, then the healthcare provider will simply refer their patient to HDA directly for further legal consultation and even representation when necessary. HDA attorneys routinely take on cases referred to them by hospital staff on a range of healthcare and public benefits issues including: SSI, SSDI, Medicaid, KidCare, and DSCC. If the legal issue referred is beyond the scope of HDA's legal services, they will refer the individual to another legal services provider who can assist them.

This innovative legal services model helps to ensure that individuals will be able to access and maintain comprehensive medical services. Its collaborative approach combines traditional medical care with a new outlet for legal advice to help individuals retain the benefits and services necessary for them to follow their medical treatment plans. In addition, healthcare providers now have access to legal resources, something not typically available in a medical care setting. This has helped these providers to learn more about some of the challenges and barriers their patients confront in trying to successfully access the programs and services they need to follow their treatment plans.

For more information on medical-legal collaboration at HDA, contact Stephanie Altman at 312-223-9600