Technology, data, people, and partnerships in addressing unmet social needs within Medicaid Managed Care

Rachel Hogg-Graham, Allison M. Scott, Emily R. Clear, Elizabeth N. Riley, Teresa M. Waters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Individuals with unmet social needs experience adverse health outcomes and are subject to greater inequities in health and social outcomes. Given the high prevalence of unmet needs among Medicaid enrollees, many Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs) are now screening enrollees for unmet social needs and connecting them to community-based organizations (CBOs) with knowledge and resources to address identified needs. The use of screening and referral technology and data sharing are often considered key components in programs integrating health and social services. Despite this emphasis on technology and data collection, research suggests substantial barriers exist in operationalizing effective systems. Methods: We used qualitative methods to examine cross-sector perspectives on the use of data and technology to facilitate MCO and CBO partnerships in Kentucky, a state with high Medicaid enrollment, to address enrollee social needs. We recruited participants through targeted sampling, and conducted 46 in-depth interviews with 26 representatives from all six Kentucky MCOs and 20 CBO leaders. Qualitative descriptive analysis, an inductive approach, was used to identify salient themes. Results: We found that MCOs and CBOs have differing levels of need for data, varying incentives for collecting and sharing data, and differing valuations of what data can or should do. Four themes emerged from interviewees’ descriptions of how they use data, including 1) to screen for patient needs, 2) to case manage, 3) to evaluate the effectiveness of programs, and 4) to partner with each other. Underlying these data use themes were areas of alignment between MCOs/CBOs, areas of incongruence, and areas of tension (both practical and ideological). The inability to interface with community partners for data privacy and ownership concerns contributes to division. Our findings suggest a disconnect between MCOs and CBOs regarding terms of their technology interfacing despite their shared mission of meeting the unmet social needs of enrollees. Conclusions: While data and technology can be used to identify enrollee needs and determine the most critical need, it is not sufficient in resolving challenges. People and relationships across sectors are vital in connecting enrollees with the community resources to resolve unmet needs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number368
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


  • Health care organizations and systems
  • Managed care organizations
  • Medicaid
  • Social determinants of health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


Dive into the research topics of 'Technology, data, people, and partnerships in addressing unmet social needs within Medicaid Managed Care'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this