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How Morehouse School of Medicine is Fighting COVID-19 in Underserved Communities

By Guest Author February 25, 2021

By: Dr. Dominic Mack, Director of Morehouse School of Medicine’s National Center for Primary Care and Todd Ellis, Principal, Health and Government Solutions at KPMG

Long-standing systemic injustices—in housing, income, education, and healthcare access—have led to a disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on underserved communities. To make progress on health equity, programs need to be put in place to provide equal access and opportunity for healthcare and other social services. 

A Grant From the Government

In June 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health awarded Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) a $40 million grant to fight COVID-19 in racial and ethnic minority, rural and other communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The grant tasks the Atlanta-based institution — one of four HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) medical schools in the nation — with coordinating a strategic network of national, state, territorial, tribal, and local organizations to deliver COVID-19-related information to communities hardest hit by the pandemic. 

MSM’s vision is focused on leading the creation and advancement of health equity. The school conducted research showing the extent to which COVID-19 was affecting communities of color more than other groups. These groups were already suffering from the highest burden of chronic diseases. When COVID-19 hit, there was a greater impact on communities who have less access to care. 

Mother gives son hand sanitizer using dispenser, while wearing masks

Morehouse School of Medicine worked collaboratively to develop the National COVID-19 Resiliency Network, a platform providing underserved communities access to COVID-19 information.

Using Advanced Technology to Connect Communities With the Right Information

An established collaboration with KPMG enabled MSM to hit the ground running once funding was secured. With support from KPMG, MSM immediately began to develop a platform that gathers critical resources and data on COVID-19 to connect families to culturally and linguistically appropriate information and services. 

Screenshot of Morehouse School of Medicine's online resources for COVID-19

The National COVID-19 Resiliency Network is a community health portal using data and analytics to pair target populations with the support and services they need

The KPMG Signals Repository — a database made up of various data points from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, state and local public health agencies, and academic centers — powers the data collection technology for the platform. It gathers data from public and private sources, transforming it into tens of thousands of signals that are then used by artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the accuracy of predictive recommendations, pairing people to the critical information they need. With this proprietary technology, MSM can pinpoint where people are most likely to be impacted by COVID-19 and the location of services and assistance available to them. 

Building the National COVID-19 Resiliency Network with Salesforce

MSM needed a way to link underserved populations to educational information, resources, and services. To do this, MSM collaborated with KPMG to build a community health portal using Experience Cloud and Service Cloud for members of the National COVID-19 Resiliency Network (NCRN). 

Today, the user-facing portal can be accessed from cell phones, tablets, or computers. An African-American woman in Atlanta, for example, can type in her zip code and see the community resources around her. She’ll discover where she can go to get a vaccine or to get tested. She’ll access tools such as symptom checkers, a pharmacy locator, and if she needs help with finding food, she can connect with a community-based organization that can help. 

Working Together to Move the Needle for Health Equity

These connections to real world resources are possible because MSM partners with the nonprofits, academic institutions, health centers, hospital systems, faith-based organizations, and government agencies that minority groups trust. NCRN administrators use a program management tool built on the Salesforce platform to track interactions, manage education, and disseminate accurate, timely and culturally appropriate information. The platform drives targeted communication—with both individuals and groups—informing them of available resources, responding to questions, and connecting them to services. 

Today, more than 50 community-based organizations across the nation are accessing information via the NCRN community health portal powered by Salesforce

NCRN’s rapid creation was possible due to multiple collaborative partnerships that MSM has established. 

Older woman holds tablet at a distance to view

The platform can expand access to healthcare for underserved populations and address health issues beyond COVID-19.

Health Equity Beyond COVID-19

Although built to address COVID-19, NCRN is flexible enough to help with any crisis facing a state or nation—from a flu outbreak to a hurricane. Leaders at MSM also envision it being used to reach populations suffering from diabetes, hypertension, and other unique health disparities that impact certain underserved populations. Ultimately, NCRN could morph into a platform where these populations come for preventative primary care. 

We want this to be the platform that really moves the needle and levels the playing ground when it comes to healthcare and equity for all. So, this is a first step — but it’s a very promising first step.

Learn more about the importance of partnerships between companies and HBCUs. And read more about how to align corporate purpose with diversity, equity, and inclusion. Learn more about the partnership between Morehouse School of Medicine, KPMG, and to create the National COVID-19 Resiliency Network.

About the Author

Dominic H. Mack, MD, MBA, Director of the National Center for Primary Care at Morehouse School of Medicine

Dominic H. Mack, MD, MBA
Director of the National Center for Primary Care at Morehouse School of Medicine

Dominic H. Mack is a Professor of Family Medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) and serves as Director of the National Center for Primary Care (NCPC). Dominic leads NCPC’s promotion of health equity and population health through the development of strategies to further research, innovations, and training that advance primary care systems. He is the Principal Investigator and Director of the National COVID-19 Resiliency Network (NCRN) and has practiced in Georgia for many years while serving in various leadership roles within nonprofit and for-profit organizations. He strives to develop national partnerships in rural and urban communities to implement equitable and sustainable community-based interventions for better health outcomes for all people.

Todd Ellis, Principal at KPMG

Todd Ellis
Principal, Health & Government Solutions at KPMG US

Todd Ellis is a Principal at KPMG with several years’ experience in the payor and provider sectors. Certified in several managed care and clinical applications, his strengths include Health Equity/Patient Access, Intelligent Automation, IT Strategy, Medicaid IT transformation – DSRIP, EHR, IT/IS program management, project management, provider configuration, sales, system testing, HIPAA assessments/implementations, facilitation and business process design. He has proven leadership experience and organization skills. His system implementation knowledge, experience in hospital administration and team leadership skills, provide an excellent foundation to deliver quality solutions.