Finding a Healthcare Home
By CINDY SANDERS
Safety Net Consortium Initiative Links Community to Primary Care
While the debate over access to healthcare rages on nationally, a collaborative partnership in the Nashville area is fostering increased awareness and utilization of area resources and services to promote a healthier community. My HealthCare Home, a joint effort of more than 50 area clinics through the Safety Net Consortium of Middle Tennessee, looks to connect some of the community's most vulnerable members to a primary care home for improved health and wellbeing.
My HealthCare Home is a project that came about as part of the Collaboration College, an opportunity for nonprofit organizations alongside public and private partners to align expertise for the greater community good. The new website - myhchtn.org - connects people to participating clinics and providers to establish primary care relationships.
"As a consortium, we talk a lot about need and how to let people know what exists and how to access the safety net so people aren't just accessing care in the ED," said Carol Westlake, chair of the Safety Net Consortium and executive director of the Tennessee Disability Coalition. "We want to build medical homes for folks so they have access to well care to build good health, as opposed to only episodic care when things go wrong."
Mike Kessen, project consultant on behalf of the Safety Net Consortium, added, "It's helping people connect to a regular source of care so that they can live healthier lives overall."
Centerstone, Faith Family, Interfaith Dental Clinic, Matthew Walker, Meharry Medical Group, Mental Health Cooperative, Mercy, Nashville General, Neighborhood Health, Primary Care and Hope Clinic, Saint Thomas, Salvus, ShadeTree, Siloam, The Clinic at Mercury Courts, and UCHA are all among the participating clinics. Additionally, Westlake said the Metro Nashville Department of Health has been a key partner throughout the process. "The Health Department has a Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP). There is a particular goal in there about system navigation and getting people to services. My HealthCare Home is a piece of the commitment we made to the CHIP on improving navigation, especially for the underserved."
The partners, however, have long recognized people cannot access what they don't know exists. Through research with focus groups, the Safety Net Consortium has found nearly half (48 percent) of uninsured individuals in the area aren't fully aware of services available within the community. "We have developed a number of strategies over the years to connect people to the safety net," Westlake said, adding the new My HealthCare Home platform is another way to engage the community in the mobile manner in which many people now expect to link to information and resources.
Kessen said the first phase of the project was building a database with a comprehensive list of resources. "The website is absolutely vital to having information available," he noted. Kessen added that as the site was being developed, a patient advisory committee helped test usability and provide feedback on how to build awareness.
Now the group has moved to the next phase. "Given the launch was April 20, we're really working on the marketing plan and getting the word out," noted Elisa Friedman, director of Planning and Community Engagement for the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance.
She added the awareness message is important for both community members who would benefit from services and for healthcare providers and discharge planners so they know this new resource exists. "It would be a great tool to get people to the right care, at the right place, and right time when they are discharged from the hospital," Friedman pointed out.
Westlake said, "Many years ago when we started the Bridges to Care program, we actually had case managers embedded in EDs that would help direct people to the appropriate level of care." Now, discharge planners and hospital case managers can use My HealthCare Home in a similar manner to help patients access needed care within the community. Friedman agreed, noting the website is a 'one-stop shop medical home.'
Westlake added it's important for consumers and providers to know the clinics all use a sliding fee scale based on income and family size. She stressed My HealthCare Home isn't just for the uninsured as the clinics also accept TennCare and other payment sources.
Kessen added additional enhancements are being made to the site. "As we move into the next phase, we are going to be able to translate the website into eight languages in addition to English," he said, noting that was one of the suggestions made by the patient advisory committee.
"Long term," Friedman said, "we're looking at those high level measures in terms of reducing cost and impact to the healthcare system. Ultimately, this is really about population health ... raising the health of the community."
Westlake concurred, "If we can get the population healthier, the entire healthcare system will be more efficient and effective ... everybody benefits."