Sanford Health connects patients to community resources

‘Sanford Helps’ website helps fill patient needs where they live

Sanford Health connects patients to community resources

A resource to help Sanford Health patients find world-class care, no matter their situation, has proven effective.

Connection within communities

In April 2022, the health care system launched Sanford Helps, a website for patients to better connect to social care community resources — financial assistance, food pantries, housing, medical care, and other free or reduced-cost help.

Erica DeBoer, chief nursing officer at Sanford Health, says is a nonthreatening way for patients to be connected to easily accessible resources where they live.

“Sanford Health is committed to identifying and connecting individuals with social risk factors, such as food insecurity, unstable housing and lack of transportation that contribute to poor health outcomes to organizations to meet these needs,” she said.

She said the program assists providers, helping them see what patients may need within their communities.

“Sanford Helps provides a consistent way across our footprint for staff to identify and connect patients to local and national resources for patients, as well as an anonymous way for patients and community members to seek and find services,” DeBoer said.

The ability to translate the information into over 100 languages, in addition to providing resources by email and text, offers equal access for every patient regardless of their native language or technology preferences, she added.

Available to anyone

Lindsay Daniels is the vice president of care management at Sanford Health and said Sanford Helps is user friendly. Patients may access the resource from an after-visit summary, their My Sanford Chart account, and via They then enter their ZIP code and can see available free or reduced-cost programs nearby.

The community resource is available for anyone in need, not just current Sanford Health patients.

Daniels said she’s proud to work for a health care provider that prioritizes meeting patients where they are.

“Sanford Helps is improving our communication and connection with community-based organizations to create a stronger, more integrated health and social care system that meets individuals where they are and improves equitable opportunities for health and well-being,” she said.

“There is consistent evidence concerning how social determinants shape a person’s health, leading us in the health care sector to pay attention and expand approaches to address these needs upstream from the clinical encounter in order to achieve more equitable health outcomes,” Daniels added.

When it comes to connecting patients to social care resources within their communities, Daniels said it’s not any one department’s responsibility. Everyone at Sanford plays a part.

“We all play a part in it. Sanford Helps makes it extremely easy for, say, the radiology technician, who’s bringing someone back for a mammography who may have disclosed to them they might be struggling with food insecurity, to point them to the Sanford Helps information on their after-visit summary.

“A provider or nurse navigating on behalf of a patient can access the link and based on their individual needs refer them directly through the site to that organization. The site is also translated into multiple languages and allows staff to text or email organization’s information to the patient, as well as printing. Improving access to the resources,” Daniels said.

Helping thousands

In 2023, the database’s first full calendar year, over 17,000 patients used the online resource, resulting in nearly 27,000 searches and 303 referrals.

Nearly 2,500 patients were connected with a program near them, and just under 500 programs were claimed.

Statistics show the most common search needs were:

  • Food
  • Housing
  • Health
  • Money

Sanford Health has communities across the entire Midwest and rural America, but the most-searched communities were:

  • Fargo-Moorhead, North Dakota-Minnesota
  • Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  • Bismarck-Mandan, North Dakota
  • Bemidji, Minnesota
  • Dickinson, North Dakota
  • Aberdeen, South Dakota
  • Watertown, South Dakota

Find support when it’s needed

Financial hardships are not uncommon. Daniels said if a patient is going through a difficult time financially, more than anything, she wants them to know they aren’t alone.

“There’s so many of us in our nation today who are struggling financially, and it becomes worse by the day. If you haven’t dealt with that, someone very close to you likely has experienced it. It’s nothing to be ashamed about. There are amazing people and organizations in every one of our communities that are here to help people in those situations,” said Daniels.

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Posted In Behavioral Health, Community, Company News, Here for all. Here for good., News, Rural Health