Throughout the United States, recognition is growing of the value of medical-legal cooperation. Such teamwork not only improves patients’ health but can reduce homelessness, missed days of work and school, and the high costs of emergency room visits.
National associations including the American Academy of Pediatrics have called on their members to engage in more of these partnerships. At last count, more than 450 U.S. hospitals and health centers were offering on-site legal aid.
At Nemours, we’ve developed screening tools with which parents of our patients, if they’re willing, can answer questions about financial, legal and other needs. During the appointment, our providers may also ask about living conditions, including the adequacy of their food and housing. “Having a lawyer as a partner on the health care team can really increase the amount of advocacy we’re able to do on behalf of families,” says Nemours Pediatric Hospitalist Abby Nerlinger, an in-house advocate of the medical-legal partnership.