What do you know about your FQHC's patients when they walk through the door? How are you reaching patients in the community who aren’t showing up to your center?
While many health centers are heavily focused on serving each individual patient and providing quality care based on that individual’s specific needs, the role of an FQHC is actually much larger, and more important. FQHCs have a responsibility to the community, which requires them to take a population-level approach to care.
Doing so requires the health center to adopt innovative technology to better understand the needs of the community. This could look like building a disease registry, running a community-wide outreach campaign, communicating with community health workers who are seeing your patients in the ER. It's a big shift for FQHCs and often involves risk, but, in this article, we explain why it’s so beneficial and what it might look like for your community health center.
How innovative technology can be leveraged to improve FQHC systems and processes
While many FQHCs have been a staple of their community for decades and have adopted their systems and processes to better serve their patients, some have still not made the technological shift to be more efficient and effective with their care delivery.
Unfortunately, this means that some centers are electronically cut off from their patients and are unable to maintain continuity of care when a patient is hospitalized or discharged or when they go to a specialist or some provider outside of the center.
Without the proper technological systems, FQHCs are also unable to track their patients’ care journey – and many staff members spend large periods of time locating patients and their records, as the reporting is not accurately captured in an organized, digital format. This is a waste of time for staff and it prevents the FQHC from participating in care-based payment models, which require accurate data sharing.
The benefits of innovative technology far outweigh the cons. For FQHCs, technology can be used to:
- Implement patient self-scheduling
- Utilize text messages to do mass outreach
- Set up digital screening tools so social and behavioral needs are assessed outside of clinical sessions
- Empower patients to take control of their health through an easy-to-navigate patient portal
- Track patients outside of the center and maintain accurate, up-to-date records
- Communicate and coordinate with various stakeholders, ensuring that patient needs are addressed in real time
- Improve quality measures and shift to more preventative care
The challenge is that adopting new technology is a laborious, team-oriented task. Processes and systems need to be adjusted or changed. Staff members have to learn new ways of working. But with the right setup, FQHCs can work more seamlessly and engage in better relationships with other stakeholders in the community, including local organizations, hospitals, and health systems.
“FQHCs want to help their patients as best as they can and technology is a big part of that,” says Lora Council, MD and former Chief Medical Officer at Yuvo Health. “Many are trying to secure grants and consistent funding so they can make it happen, not realizing that the funding is more likely to come once the technology is put into place.”