Free and charitable clinics leaders and other health care experts from across the country gathered in Nevada recently to address health equity for low-income and uninsured patients. Photo courtesy of Fred Bauermeister.
Stamford, Conn. – Oct. 29, 2018 – Health care leaders from across the nation recently came together to agree on the health data free and charitable clinics will voluntarily report in an effort to ensure all patients receive quality care.
The “Quality of Care in Free and Charitable Clinics: Creating a Roadmap to Health Equity” conference in Henderson, Nevada, brought together leaders of free and charitable clinics from 24 states as well as associations and other experts in the health care sector with a goal to improve care for the most vulnerable patients. During the two-day meeting Oct. 16-17, participants agreed clinics will voluntarily report data related to high-blood pressure. In addition, clinics will be asked to select at least one additional quality measure from a menu of more than a dozen other clinical outcomes and process measures. Further, participating clinics will submit sociodemographic patient data, including race, ethnicity and language. Over time, additional clinical and patient experience measures will be added. The conference immediately followed the 2018 National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics Annual Symposium.
The convening is part of a multi-year Roadmap to Health Equity Initiative for clinics and state associations of free and charitable clinics interested in reporting quality measures and health equity on a national level. The goal is to ultimately create a national repository, along with a clinic-level dashboard, to track patient outcomes and measure quality of care at free and charitable clinics across the U.S. The database will enable clinics to demonstrate the quality of care they provide as well as identify areas that require additional attention to improve health outcomes for patients. It will also build quantitative evidence to help clinics leaders advocate for funding and community support.
“Millions of low-income patients across the country rely on free and charitable clinics for their health care,” said Americares Vice President of U.S. Programs Lindsay O’Brien. “We are working together to create a national reporting system that will help us to identify and, ultimately, address any disparities that may emerge.”
Disparities in health care refer to differences in access, treatment and outcomes between individuals and populations that are systematic, avoidable, predictable and unjust. Many studies have examined the impact of income and socioeconomic factors on health. Disparities in health and health care affect everyone—they impact those groups facing disparities and also inhibit gains in the quality of care and health for the entire population.
The Roadmap to Health Equity Initiative is a joint project of Americares, the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics and Loyola University Chicago in collaboration with state clinic associations and clinic leaders across the country. The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and athenahealth, Inc., a leading provider of network-enabled services for hospital and ambulatory clients nationwide, have provided funding for the initiative.
“Throughout the country, Free and Charitable Clinics, their staff and their volunteers have been building a culture of health care equity for all individuals for decades,” National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics Chief Executive Officer Nicole Lamoureux said. “We are excited to have our members take part of such an exciting and forward-thinking program such as Roadmap.”
Loyola University Associate Professor Julie Darnell, an expert on health care for poor and vulnerable populations in the U.S., also called the convening a step forward.
“We were all extremely gratified to see that more than 50 prominent clinic leaders took time away from the day-to-day challenges of providing patient care to devote two days to think together about reporting on quality measures,” Darnell said. “I think that the impressively high turnout at the event speaks to the growing realization across the sector that sharpening the focus on outcomes reporting will actually lead to concrete improvements in patient care.”
Americares is a global, health-focused relief and development organization that saves lives and improves health for people affected by poverty or disaster. In the U.S., Americares provides medicine, supplies, education and training to a network of more than 1,000 partner clinics nationwide serving 7 million patients. Americares U.S. Program helps partner clinics increase capacity, provide comprehensive care, improve health outcomes and reduce costs for patients. Americares also operates four Americares Free Clinics near its Connecticut headquarters for low-income patients without health insurance.
About the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics
The National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (NAFC) is the only nonprofit 501c(3) organization whose mission is solely focused on the issues and needs of the medically underserved throughout the nation and the more than 1,400 Free and Charitable Clinics that serve them. Founded in 2001 and headquartered near Washington, D.C., the NAFC is working to ensure that the medically underserved have access to affordable quality health care and strives to be a national voice promoting quality health care for all. The NAFC has earned the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar and a Four Star Ranking with Charity Navigator. For more information about the NAFC, please visit www.nafcclinics.org. Follow the NAFC on Twitter at https://twitter.com/NAFClinics and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NAFCClinics
About Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine Department of Public Health Sciences
The Department of Public Health Sciences, housed within the Stritch School of Medicine, brings together scholars and teachers who study the well-being of diverse populations and inequities in health and who draw upon these experiences to prepare future public health leaders. The Department offers several degree programs, including a master of public health. Located in Maywood, a predominantly African American community at the western border of Chicago, the faculty are also actively engaged with civic affairs and health promotion in the surrounding community.
Funding for the Roadmap to Health Equity 2018 conference was made possible by Grant #: 1 R13 nMD012759-01 from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention by trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.