Optimizing the Community Resource Specialist role

KP Washington's Community Resource Specialist (CRS) implementation and evaluation

Kaiser Permanente Washington's new CRS role has been making a difference for our members since the original pilot study that launched the role several years ago. Across all our primary care clinics, CRSs are available to provide brief health and wellness support to members and to connect them to community-based resources to help meet social needs around things like housing, transportation, parenting support, and healthy food access. (Learn more in this blog post by CRS assistant manager and LHS partner Cindee DeWitt: Partnering with research, CRS program addresses social needs in primary care.)

Through the LHS Program, implementation scientists at KPWHRI worked with behavioral health experts at Kaiser Permanente Washington to define the core components of the CRS role, support its implementation through practice facilitation and technical assistance, and document best practices and scale-up strategies. 

The LHS Program team also evaluated the impact of the CRS service on patient and care team outcomes, with the goal of using lessons learned to enhance program effectiveness at scale and to inform ongoing decision-making about the CRS program.

Here are some highlights from the key findings:

  • The CRS role is valued by members and care teams, reflects well on Kaiser Permanente, and helps set us apart in the market.

  • Members who had 2 or more CRS encounters reported positive changes and were very satisfied with the service.

  • Members have a lot of unmet social needs the CRS role can help address and many need significant support to overcome barriers to accessing resources and the stigma of asking for help.

In addition, the LHS Program’s CRS team developed a playbook and checklist to help CRSs, CRS managers, primary care teams, and clinic leadership continue improving CRS services and the role’s integration on the care team. Among the recommendations that emerged from the evaluation was to implement universal social health screening for all members - work that is currently underway at Kaiser Permanente Washington in partnership with the LHS Program

Learning Health System (LHS) Program logo

Helping members with social needs

Photo of Cindee DeWitt

Partnering with research, CRS program addresses social needs in primary care

Cindee DeWitt describes how Kaiser Permanente Washington’s community resource specialist program stands out among efforts to meet patients’ social needs.