This week we were stoked to visit federally qualified health centers (or CHCs) with our partners at the Ohio Association of Community Health Centers. We talked about the intersection of digital innovation and community health — how technology can drive access to care, boost outcomes, and help health centers demonstrate their value.
Here’s a conversation between myself and Ramesh Munnangi, Luma Health’s Director of Business Development, on what we learned in Ohio.
alex [10:46 AM]
I think one of my favorite parts of our time with the CHCs in Ohio was learning more about just how patient-focused they are. Every question, concern, and comment they brought up always came back to, How is this helping my patients access care? Is this helping us better coordinate care for them? Are we moving the needle on health outcomes? Even though they’re serving the most vulnerable patients, which is not always easy, they’re committed to being the provider of choice, not of last resort.
ramesh [4:02 PM]
Yeah, they definitely have the best interests of their patients at heart! What was really interesting for me to hear was that more of health center grants are now going to be tied to value-based care and health outcomes. It’ll be exciting to see just how they innovate to boost patient outcomes now that their funding will be tied to it.
alex [4:06 PM]
Definitely. This could mean serious business for some folks, especially as they work to best serve patients who are juggling families, multiple jobs, and various social determinants of health (and may be more likely to no-show). Their mission is to provide high-quality care to all, and studies have shown that CHCs save the health system some serious dollars by providing cost-effective, patient-centered care. But now they’ve got to have the data and reporting in place to be able to demonstrate just what kind of value they’re providing. One interesting area of opportunity for CHCs is how they could leverage technology to help connect patients to needed resources — chronic disease management support, health education, food and housing assistance, and the list goes on.
ramesh [4:38 PM]
Absolutely. I think digital innovation can be the key to delivering — and demonstrating — value to patients, payers, partners, and more. Through improving operational workflows and streamlining inefficient processes, these technologies can free up time and resources for the health centers to focus on the patients. The important thing is to make sure that the technology being implemented is not actually causing more work for clinic staff.
alex [4:40 PM]
I noticed quite a bit of head-nodding when we talked about crazy phone volume and overworked staff. At the same time that CHCs are appeasing payers and becoming the provider of choice for patients, they also have to attract and retain talented staff. That’s not so easy when clinical shortages are on the rise. Making the best use of staff time is huge.
ramesh [4:43 PM]
Totally. And we heard how much of a shortage there is in terms of actual physicians working at the health centers. Part-time nurses, physician assistants, and other mid-level providers deliver much of the care at CHCs. This is where innovation like telehealth could play a big part in furthering access to those patients in the most underserved areas.
In line with that, I thought it was very interesting to hear their take on the expansion of retail clinics like the CVS HealthHubs. From the health center perspective, the retail clinics are stealing the easy care appointments and leaving the chronic conditions and complex care to the health center.
alex [5:28 PM]
Competing with retail clinics, attracting new staff, succeeding on quality while cutting costs. The list is pretty endless for CHCs. And they’re juggling all this while putting patients first. They clearly need solutions that take into account all their competing priorities and help them meet multiple goals. I know I was impressed by all the ways they were considering improving health care in their communities! I’m looking forward to continuing our conversations with other health centers to see where we can help them drive value.
ramesh [5:28 PM]
Ditto. Thanks, Alex!
alex [5:28 PM]
Thank you, Ramesh!