Community health centers perform equal to or better than private practice PCPs

8-8-12 Feature Story:

New national data underpins achievements of Massachusetts' health centers

Boston, MA-August 8, 2012-Community health centers are critical drivers of healthcare in Massachusetts, and perform equal to or better than their counterparts in private practice according to a new study released by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Making up the state's largest primary care network, Massachusetts health centers provide care to nearly 800,000 state residents.

"National data such as these allow us to better clarify the context in which community health centers operate," said James W. Hunt, Jr., president and CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. "Considering the unique challenges of the many populations we support, it is validating to see such robust findings on a national scale that demonstrate health centers are providing care equal or superior to our colleagues in private practice."

In Massachusetts, 90% of health center patients have incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level; nationally, the figure is 93%. Because many health center patients are at higher risk for contracting chronic diseases like diabetes, depression, heart disease and cancer, the national study presupposed that there might be gaps in quality indicators in comparison to private PCPs, which was proven false.

Health centers perform equally or better on the national scale in the four categories measured:

  • Pharmacologic management of common chronic diseases;
  • Preventive counseling for individuals at high risk of coronary artery disease (including smoking cessation, diet and exercise);
  • Appropriate use of screening tests for blood pressure, electrocardiogram and urinalysis; and
  • Appropriate prescribing in elderly patients.

In Massachusetts, 44% of the patients served by community health centers are insured through Medicaid, and 20% remain uninsured (down from 40% uninsured and underinsured before MA healthcare reform). As community health centers will soon serve many of the nation's 20 million newly insured individuals under the Affordable Care Act, health center patients in Massachusetts and across the country can take comfort in knowing that they are receiving top-notch treatment through these locally accessible community-based providers.

The study was released prior to National Health Center Week (August 5 -12), which provides an annual opportunity to promote the mission and work of health centers in the more than 7,000 communities they serve nationwide. Click here for a full listing of Massachusetts-based activities marking this year's National Health Center Week.


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