The League's Clinical Health Affairs Department provides a broad range of support to community health center physicians, nurse practitioners, dentists, other clinicians and quality improvement managers as they work to provide the highest quality care to their patients. The department manages innovative clinical collaborations that target health disparities and improve patient health; offers resources and continuous support and training for quality improvement; lends expertise in areas related to clinical health policy; and creates opportunities for leadership and networking among health center clinicians.
Primary care is widely considered to be the foundation of a well performing health system. Massachusetts community health centers have long been recognized as high performers, both in the health care they provide and the money they save. Providing both access to and coordination of health care for over 988,000 state residents, they are deeply invested in finding ways to improve the accessibility, quality, safety and efficiency of primary care. The League and several of its member health centers are currently engaged in two projects aimed at strengthening the role and impact of primary care to improve patient health and lower health costs.
Access and Redesign Collaborative
Over the past year, several Massachusetts community health centers have been engaged in a pilot program focused on redesigning the management of patient visits for improving access to care. The "Access and Redesign" Collaborative provides the foundation improvement work for practice transformation at community health centers. The ultimate goal of the collaborative is formal recognition of health centers as Patient Centered Medical Homes. Participating health centers have developed and implemented systems to track their improvement efforts in areas including: patient assignments to providers; matching appointment supply to patient demand; reducing "Did Not Keep Appointment" (DNKAs); and reducing wait time for next available appointment.
Health disparities refer to gaps in health status and health care equity across racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Eliminating health disparities has been an ongoing focus of health centers since their inception in 1965. Many health center patients are from ethnic and racial minorities, and are disproportionately affected by chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, cancer depression and HIV/AIDS. All health center clinical initiatives are aimed at addressing health disparities, including innovative and highly successful Health Disparities Collaboratives.
Health Disparities Collaboratives
Thirty-nine community health centers currently participate in at least one Health Disparities Collaborative (HDC), applying the Care Model for performance improvement. HDCs help individuals better collaborate with health care professionals to strengthen and support self-care in the management of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma and heart disease. Patients work with their physicians to set goals and develop action plans that assist them to meet key health objectives related to their chronic illness.