A Colorado Health Center Shines in the Spotlight

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The staff at Peak Vista in Colorado Springs, CO

Every now and then we like to call out an individual health center for carrying out the mission in an extraordinary way.  Peak Vista Community Health Centers in Colorado Springs has received PCMH recognition for using evidence-based, patient-centered processes that focus on highly coordinated care and long‐term, participative relationships.  What does that mean exactly? It means that Peak Vista has represented the model of primary care that combines the essential ingredients of teamwork and information technology not only to improve how patients experience care, but to reduce costs.  This can’t be an easy task for a health center that serves more than 80,000 patients annually. But Peak Vista makes it look easy.

Too often in healthcare, the approach to patients can be episodic and fragmented; clinicians aren’t communicating with each other and the treatment is not coordinated. PCMH aims the bar much higher, and for good reason.  Research shows that medical homes can lead to higher quality and lower costs, and can improve patient and provider reported experiences of care.

“NCQA Patient-Centered Medical Home Recognition raises the bar in defining high-quality care by emphasizing access, health information technology and coordinated care focused on patients,” said NCQA President Margaret E. O’Kane in a press release.  “Recognition shows that Peak Vista has the tools, systems and resources to provide its patients with the right care, at the right time.”

To earn recognition, which is valid for three years, Peak Vista demonstrated the ability to meet the program’s key elements, embodying characteristics of the medical home. NCQA standards aligned with the joint principles of PCMH established with the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Osteopathic Association. To find clinicians and their practices with NCQA PCMH Recognition, visit http://recognition.ncqa.org.

Health Center Staffing Patterns a Model?

A study published in Health Affairs reveals how non-physician staff can contribute to productivity.  Researchers examined medical staffing patterns at Community Health Centers across the United States. They identified four different staffing patterns: typical, high advanced-practice staff, high nursing staff, and high other medical staff. Overall, they found that in terms of productivity per staff everyone was at the same level. Productivity can affect a lot at a health care organization in terms of personnel costs and patient visits, and overall efficiency. But researchers concluded that while physicians make the greatest contributions to productivity, advanced-practice staff, nurses, and other medical staff also contribute. Interestingly, the study underscores the value of team based care.  They write:

“Traditionally, productivity is measured based on the number of visits in which a physician (or advanced-practice staff member) sees a patient. This ignores the roles of other staff, however. A single clinician is not usually the sole provider of patient’s care. A medical assistant may take vital signs; a physician may conduct the evaluation and make a diagnosis; and a nurse may draw blood, administer an injection, or educate the patient. According to a team-based care perspective, the visit should be viewed in terms of the joint productivity of the overall team.”

Health center staffing patterns vary from place to place, and the fact that health centers are located in medically underserved areas consistently pose provider recruitment challenges.  Other factors that apply are nurse practitioner scope-of-practice laws, and patient characteristics such as insurance status. The healthcare blog Fierce HealthCare also noted in a recent post that the study’s findings suggest that other group medical practices could employ the same staffing patterns without disrupting productivity and at the same time protect their bottom line.

Thinking Outside the Box in Workforce

On opposite sides of the U.S., two health centers are on the cutting edge of innovation when it comes to fostering a workforce that is trained and responsive in meeting the needs of the diverse communities they serve. These Community Health Centers’ efforts are highlighted in two new briefs on how health centers are pioneering new ways to redesign their workforce to produce effective results as Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMH).

First, on the east coast, Community Clinic, Inc. (CCI) in Silver Spring, MD (a suburb of Washington, DC) provides primary medical care services, oral health services, family planning and behavioral health to more than 50,000 people.  There is a lot of diversity–more than 73 percent of the patient population are ethnic minorities.  Yet, most of CCI’s staff, which has grown from 84 in 2008 to over 250 people, are bilingual speaking (90 percent), with 22 languages. Read the CCI Issue Brief.

Seattle Indian Health Board (SIHB) in Washington state offers a range of services that include dental and traditional Indian medicine, but they are also known for being home to the Urban Indian Health Institutethe nation’s only urban Indian epidemiology center focusing on research, advocacy and education regarding the health disparities of the American Indian / Alaska Native (AI/AN) population. That is why it was critical for the center to have a pipeline of willing and able staff familiar with American Indian and Alaskan native populations. The center also looked at fostering important soft skills for entry level staff, such as customer service, communication, and cultural humility, all of which affect not only how patients experience care, but whether they utilize it regularly. Read the SHIB Issue Brief.

These two issue briefs, developed with support from the Hitachi Foundation, are worth a read because they underscore how health centers are improving patients’ healthcare experience by focusing on entry level care support; that is to say, what happens before and during a patient’s visit.  If you have any additional questions about these briefs, please contact Jason Patnosh, Associate Vice President, Partnership and Resource Development at NACHC (jpatnosh@nachc.org).

2015 Off to a Good Start

We’re just a few days into the New Year and there are encouraging signs that health centers are getting some well deserved attention as they celebrate their 50th anniversary.  First, in Michigan, the work that U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow has done on behalf of expanding affordable care garnered attention in the local The News Herald.  Stabenow toured a health center, where the Michigan Primary Care Association presented her with the NACHC Distinguished Champion Award.  “Many Michigan families rely on Community Health Centers to receive basic medical services, and thanks to the great work these groups do, more patients are getting the critical health care they need,” Stabenow told the News Herald.

 Jackson Citizen Patriot, another Michigan newspaper, used the accomplishments of health centers to make the case for continued funding and fixing the health center funding cliff, noting in its editorial,  that “while we support Congress’ efforts to be fiscally judicious, we believe dollars spent on Community Health Centers [sic] are dollars well-spent.”

We also note that the year 2014 also closed out with health center leaders taking pen in hand to make the case for fixing the funding cliff.  Minnesota is a case in point.  “Everyone has heard the term ‘too big to fail,’ ” writes Jonathan Watson, Public Policy Director of the Minnesota Association of Community Health Centers in an editorial published by the  MinnPost.  “Community Health Centers are, in contrast, ‘too effective to fail.’ Fixing the primary care cliff during the lame duck session would prove the pundits right (for once): Congress can indeed work together and avert a health-care crisis of primary care in our state.”

Stay tuned for updates as we track the local and national headlines featuring health centers.


Health Center News in 2014

vector-crosswords-on-dices_MyEWpBUOAs another exciting year comes to an end we wanted to recap a few of the articles about Community Health Centers that our readers and friends found most interesting. We look forward to continuing to work with our health center colleagues, supporters and friends in 2015!


Community Health Centers and Quality of Care

A Legacy of Saving Lives

Research from the University of Michigan focuses on the first years (’65-‘74) of Community Health Centers and finds a decline in mortality rates among individuals 50+.

Quality of Care

A Health Services Research study indicated that patients, particularly those who do not have health insurance and received care at Community Health Centers, have fewer hospitalizations.

Open Enrollment and the ACA

Health Centers Were Ready to Enroll

A NACHC survey showed 97% of Community Health Centers felt ready for the second round of open enrollment.

Healthcare Limbo

Our friends at the Louisiana Primary Care Association were featured in this Daily Beast article about the tragic impact of not expanding Medicaid in the Bayou State.

Access to Care

Going Without Care

Having health insurance doesn’t mean you have access to healthcare.

Access Is the Answer

The NACHC report Access is the Answer showed 62 million people have little or no access to primary care.

Study Indicates FQHCs More Likely to Offer Medicaid and Uninsured New Patient Appointments

Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) granted new patient appointments to Medicaid beneficiaries and uninsured patients at higher rates than other primary care practices (non-FQHCs).

The Health Center Funding Cliff

Health Centers on the Hill: 2014 Year In Review

Read a recap of the major policy events of the year and take a look at what opportunities and challenges lay ahead.

Do Something in the Lame Duck Session

Community Health Center champion and Forbes contributor, Carolyn McClanahan, urged readers to contact their Members of Congress to ask them to protect our public health and fix the Health Center Funding Cliff.