An Interdisciplinary Collaborative Approach to Wellness: Adding Lawyers to the Healthcare Team to Provide Integrated Care for Patients

By Lisa Radtke Bliss, Sylvia B. Caley and Robert Pettignano.

Published by The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

An interdisciplinary community collaboration, the medical-legal partnership, can improve health status by providing integrated care for patients from racial or ethnic minority and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Too often, professionals care for patients in silos without a coordinated, systems approach to solving not only the medical problems but also other non-medical problems that impede access to care, reduce compliance and potentially exacerbate the original medical problem. By combining the health care expertise of hospital professionals with the legal expertise of lawyers, resulting coordinated services provide a more holistic and integrated approach to addressing the multiple determinants of health. This interdisciplinary approach improves access to care, patient health and well-being and access to financial resources for many patients. This article will explain how a collaboration among a large, urban-based health system, a state university law school, and an urban-based legal services organization created, implemented, funds, evaluates and integrates patient-focused legal services into the hospital setting. This integration can improve the health and well-being of the patients served, the revenue stream and financial well-being of the healthcare organization and create interdisciplinary educational opportunities for the professionals working within the collaboration. The article explains the process of building a collaboration, including how to evaluate institutional strengths and community resources, identify and approach partners, formalize partner roles and responsibilities, develop funding strategies, and develop a process to identify success while performing approved human subject research.

Keywords: Medical-legal Partnership, Health Law Partnership, Legal Services, Interdisciplinary, Community Collaboration, Lawyer, Holistic Care

The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp.129-140. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 733.958KB).

Prof. Lisa Radtke Bliss

Co-Director of the HeLP Legal Services Clinic, Georgia State University College of Law, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Lisa Bliss is Associate Clinical Professor and Co-Director of the HeLP Legal Services Clinic at Georgia State University College of Law in Atlanta, Georgia. The HeLP Legal Services Clinic provides legal services to families of low-income children who are receiving health care at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The HeLP Clinic is an interdisciplinary educational experience where students learn about and from medical professionals in the context of cases involving children’s SSI disability, access to medical care and coverage, housing, consumer rights, employment and wills. She has also taught Public Interest Law and Social Welfare and Advanced Techniques in Pretrial Litigation. Professor Bliss taught Research, Writing and Advocacy at Georgia State University from 2001 - 2006. Previously, Professor Bliss was a member of the faculty of the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Professor Bliss’ professional experience includes seven years of private practice as a litigator in Atlanta, Georgia. She also served for three and a half years as Deputy Director of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, where she supervised the pro bono service of private lawyers and clinical law students and lectured at Continuing Legal Education Seminars.

Sylvia B. Caley

Director HeLP; Co-Director HeLP Legal Service Clinic, Georgia State University College of Law, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Sylvia Caley is Associate Clinical Professor at Georgia State University’s College of Law. She also is Director of the Health Law Partnership (HeLP), a medical-legal community collaboration among Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, and the College of Law, and Co-Director of the in-house HeLP Legal Clinic. Professor Caley has extensive experience in health care, health law and policy, and poverty law, and her work-related interests have centered on the intersection of health and poverty. Of particular interest to her is the devastating effect that serious illness has on families, and how solving legal problems can help to improve the health and social well-being of low-income children. Professor Caley is a member of the Grady Health System Ethics Committee and the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Bioethics Committee. Professor Caley teaches courses on health policy and legislation and clinical skills. She also lectures extensively on legal issues affecting child health and well-being.

Dr. Robert Pettignano

Medical Director - Campus Operations, Medical Champion HeLP, Administration, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Hughes Spalding; Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Dr. Pettignano graduated from Iona College in New York with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology then taught high school biology for two years before attending and graduating from medical school at Ross University, Dominica, West Indies. Dr. Pettignano completed his pediatric residency at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in New Jersey and his pediatric critical care fellowship at Egleston Children’s Hospital at Emory University in Atlanta. Dr. Pettignano has practiced in both the private and academic sector. During his time as an intensivist at Egleston Children’s Hospital he was the Director of the Pediatric and Adult section of the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Program and Medical Director of the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). He was elected to the American College of Critical Care in 2000. Dr. Pettignano has been recognized by the pediatric residents from both Emory University and Orlando Regional Healthcare “Teacher of the Year”. In 2003 because of an interest in the business of medicine and in order to prepare himself for a future in medical administration he completed a Masters in Business Administration at Kennesaw State University. Presently he is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics, attending intensivist/hospitalist, HeLP Medical Champion and Medical Director – Campus Operations at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Hughes Spalding.