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Partnering with Community Health Centers

Adaptive Medical Partners | Healthcare Administrators

Across the country, healthcare organizations grapple with changes following implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the shift toward value-based reimbursement models, an increasingly aging population and pressures to streamline care while improving the quality of and access to that care. Partnering with a community health center can help hospitals address some of these issues and can create a win-win-win relationship where the hospital, the health center and the patient all benefit.

What Is a Community Health Center?

A community health center is a community-based, patient-driven nonprofit health organization that provides comprehensive preventive and primary care medical services. Community health centers are important safety net providers for people with limited access to healthcare and without insurance.

  • More than 25 million patients, or one in 13 Americans, received care at a community health center in 2016.
  • Around 1,400 organizations provide services at more than 9,500 locations throughout the country.
  • Patients at community health centers are more likely to have chronic conditions and either no insurance or public insurance like Medicaid. They also are more likely to receive many preventive care services.

Possible Ways to Partner With a Community Health Center

Hospitals can partner with a community health center in varying degrees, from discrete projects to an integrated care delivery model. Examples of possible partnerships include:

  • Development of a new health center site: Hospitals can donate facility space or lease personnel to the health center, as well as advocate on the center’s behalf with local authorities and funders.
  • Creation of a system to streamline referrals: The community health center and hospital can link electronic health record systems so the clinic can directly place specialty provider referrals, providers at both can view medical records and hospital providers can refer patients to the clinic for follow-up after receiving emergency care.
  • Teaching collaborations and placements of residents in rotations: Hospitals with residency programs can add rotations at the community health center, broadening the type of setting and patients residents are exposed to.
  • Development of an Accountable Care Organization (ACO): Under the Medicare Shared Savings Program structure, one method of integrating the delivery of healthcare is through the creation of an ACO. ACOs that include a federally qualified health center, which is the primary type of community health center, qualify for higher shared savings.

Benefits of a Partnership With a Community Health Center

Hospitals can gain the expertise offered by community health centers’ experience in managing chronic care populations and reporting quality data. Community health centers gain access to specialty care providers. Additionally, a partnership potentially produces the following benefits:

  • Lower readmission rates: Patients without a primary care provider can be referred for follow-up care to the community health center.
  • Shorten emergency department waiting times: Uninsured patients often use emergency departments for necessary, but non-emergency care that can instead be provided by the community health center.
  • Share patient health information to provide better care: When patients present in the Emergency Department, providers can give better care when the medical record is available since they will know about prior conditions, current prescriptions, blood type, etc.
  • Improve health of community: When the quality of care improves, greater access to an expanded set of services provided and important safety net providers strengthened, the overall health of the community improves.

Hospitals also can benefit from a partnership with Adaptive Medical Partners, a premier physician recruiting agency.