Spotlight on Advantage Care: With roots in neurodiversity care, a New York FQHC expands to serve all

Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) come in all shapes and sizes, but they share a singular mission: To serve their communities in a proactive, holistic manner regardless of an individual’s circumstances or needs.

Advantage Care Health Centers fulfills this mission in two locations on Long Island, New York, with primary care, dental, mental healthcare, and specialty physicians. But it has taken a more unique path than most to get there.

In 2004, Advantage Care was originally launched to support the needs of residents in a residential community for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) in Brookville, NY, explains Mary Ellen Diver, CEO of Advantage Care Health Centers.

“Our headquarter is co-located with our partner AHRC Nassau, which provides a wide range of services and supports for people with neurodiversity and developmental challenges,” she said. “Our leadership mostly comes from AHRC backgrounds, which gives us a unique perspective on how to provide care to people with complex needs.”

“We wanted to take that a step further and expand primary care to a broader population. Access to care can be very difficult on Long Island, so when we opened our second location on the South Shore of Long Island in 2015, we knew it would bring a huge benefit to the community at large.”

With a strong focus on innovation, Advantage Care has embraced a variety of strategies to enhance its operations, including remote care, the Open Notes movement, patient-centered medical home (PCMH) recognition, and value-based care models to support ongoing financial sustainability.

“We want to do everything we can to provide the best possible care to people who don’t always have other options,” said Diver. “That means engaging in models and programs that promote integrated, coordinated care while providing growth opportunities for our health center.”

Related: Hear from more FQHCs like Advantage Care in our latest Annual Report.  

A full range of services for comprehensive care delivery

Advantage Care offers all the expected primary care services for adults and children, as well as psychology, psychiatry, social work, a full range of dental care offerings, and even podiatry services, which are critical for managing diabetes and other conditions.

In addition, the Fay J. Linder Center at Advantage Care provides comprehensive outpatient clinical services to ensure healthy, productive, and fulfilling lives for people with a variety of neurodiversity needs.

“For many of our patients, it takes a lot of special effort and investment to come to the clinic,” said Diver. “We want to ensure patients receive comprehensive coordinated care from a health center they trust.”

Telehealth visits are available and ideal for patients who have limited or no transportation. During the pandemic, Advantage Care was able to continue seamlessly with the use of a telehealth platform funded by a Federal Communication Commission FCC grant. In addition, “grants from the FCC facilitated expansion of IT infrastructure, staff development, and training to support virtual care,” Diver said.

“Even though the pandemic is over, we see the ongoing value in remote care,” she said.

“We’re continuing to offer telehealth visits and will be launching a new program for remote blood pressure monitoring RPM. RPM will enhance patient engagement, promote self-care and wellbeing, and allow for connectivity with our patients in their daily lives between appointments.”

In addition to robust clinical care, Advantage Care also actively works with un/underinsured patients to obtain health insurance and address coordination of benefits, added Darci Weissbrot, Director of Operations/Compliance.

“We have an entire department dedicated to making sure people who are eligible for Medicaid can participate in a Medicaid Managed Care plan, and helping people navigate the system — particularly those who are dual eligible for Medicare and Medicaid,” she said. “The vast majority of our patients have some form of public insurance, and we have partnered with most of the managed care plans out there to work more efficiently together.”

“Those partnerships have really positioned us well to start thinking about value-based care and other steps we can take to continuously improve the wellbeing of our community.”

(Our free guide shares more on the opportunities that value-based care can bring to your health center.)

Creating the FQHC of the future with value-based practice transformation

Value-minded transformation is a driving force for Advantage Care, which has won several significant grants to further its growth.

For example, a community health worker grant will help staff connect patients to necessary services, including mental and behavioral health care, chronic disease management tools, and community-based support for the social determinants of health.

Advantage Care is also pleased to be the recipient of a $62,000 grant from New York State that will make open notes available electronically to patients. The funding will allow the health center to implement shared notes and participate in a technical assistance and peer-learning network to further develop the technical infrastructure required for meaningful, collaborative patient engagement.

“We are also working on the ability to translate clinical notes into other languages,” said Weissbrot.

“We have a large Spanish-speaking population, for example, and we want to make sure they feel at home so they can follow what their therapist is saying or understand what their care plan is going to be. It’s a big initiative for us, and we’re looking forward to seeing how opening up notes to patients will affect their ability to engage with their health and their providers.”

The open notes initiative will complement the health center’s PCMH designation, which provided Advantage Care’s first experiences with value-based care.

“We needed to be in a value-based care contract to gain our PCMH recognition – it didn’t have to be a downside contract, but it had to be something,” said Weissbrot. “We really wanted to get on that trend, because it’s easy to see how all of these initiatives work together to create better outcomes for patients and open up financial opportunities for our organization.”

“We know this is where Medicaid is heading in our state, and in many others. And we enjoy the challenge. Collaboration and innovation are some of our strong suits, which is going to position us well as we continue to take on more value-based care contracts with Yuvo Health as our new partner.”

Success with value-based care depends on creating an aspirational culture through a combination of technical infrastructure development and practice transformation programs, agreed Diver.

“FQHCs always have a lot of challenges, but we feel like we can actually manage the chaos through some of these efforts to realign our incentives and create smarter, more patient-friendly workflows,” she said. “We started out twenty years ago with the goal of helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities maximize joy and health in their lives, and it’s become part of our makeup to always do the best we can with what we have.”

“It’s an exciting time in community healthcare, and we’re proud to be playing our part in showing what a forward-thinking FQHC can do as the industry evolves toward a more value-based perspective.”

Download our free guide for more insights on how your FQHC can evolve into value-based care.

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