California Health Centers Focus on Quality, Better Patient Outcomes

Community health centers in California are seeing a large disparity in patients' quality of care. The noted variation is cited as a result of the amount of time certain centers have put into improving quality measures, and attributed to their adaptation of electronic health records to monitor patients wellness.

Community health centers in California are seeing a large disparity in patients' quality of care. The noted variation is cited as a result of the amount of time certain centers have put into improving quality measures, and attributed to their adaptation of electronic health records (EHRs) to monitor patients wellness. California health centers are federally subsidized providers who supply care to patients with chronic diseases, like diabetes, and help assist those who are without insurance or are underinsured.

These clinics recognize that an ability to provide better quality care will be critical to retaining patients, as the uninsured become eligible for coverage under the healthcare reform. The government, who has already invested $11 billion into financing these clinics, mandates that they meet specific quality benchmarks in an effort to expand access and improve care standards. Additionally, about $1 billion in payments will be made to providers based on patient satisfaction scores and other clinical quality measures. Although the benchmarks are high, government expectations keep clinics striving for improved performance in managed care indicators like cervical cancer screening and diabetes management.

The California Primary Care Association has been working with the state clinics to improve patient data collection, and to ensure they utilize the gathered information to improve health outcomes in both quality and cost-effectiveness. A recent study sponsored by the association found that even though most patients who visit these clinics may be sicker or poorer than the general population, they still receive care that is both low-cost and high-quality.

Al Pacheco, chief executive at Family Health Care Centers of Greater Los Angeles, said that although his clinic is striving to meet the federal demands for better quality, it can be difficult with limited resources. They remain committed though, as they recently made the switch from paper to electronic records.

"It will not be how many patients we see,” Mr. Pacheco said. “It will be about how much better off they are after having come here."

Around the Web

Health Centers Vary Widely in Quality of Medical Management [Los Angeles Times]

Healthcare Overhaul Leads Hospitals to Focus on Patient Satisfaction [Los Angeles Times]