3 Key Trends Impacting Federally Qualified Health Centers

NetgainHealthcare IT, Performance & Availability

We recently joined over 1,400 leaders from Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) at two national conferences to learn more about the common challenges they face and identify solutions.

During our time at the California Primary Care Association (CPCA) Annual Conference and the Financial, Operation Management & Information Technology Expo, we noticed one overarching trend: a desire to empower and better serve patients. That included everything from patient portals and caring for the whole patient to patient analytics and big data. After a few years in which the system forced a lot of practices to focus on production numbers, we’re refreshed to hear practices feeling that the focus is back on the patients and quality. Recent events have clinical leaders casting a cautious eye to Washington, hoping this trend is not reversed by policy shifts.

At a micro-level, here are three trends impacting FQHCs and how we’re using these trends to better serve our FQHC clients:

1. Proactive Measures
In the past, healthcare delivery has been fairly reactive. When you get sick, you see a provider. When you feel symptoms, you schedule an appointment. When you notice a lump, you call the doctor.

Now, providers are taking proactive steps to achieve overall patient wellness. Rather than treating just the symptoms, providers are treating the whole patient – a concept that Dr. Jennifer Sayles discussed in her breakout “Caring for the Whole Person: A Vision for the Delivery System.”

Another session, “The Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic: How Your FQHC may Play a Vital Part in Improving the Overall Health of the Community,” broadened the focus from one patient to building healthcare communities. These proactive measures are geared toward reducing patient healthcare costs and building healthier communities. How clinics manage patients’ data, and leverage that data to demonstrate achievement of outcomes across a spectrum of healthcare (both physical and mental), was an underlying and facilitating concept.

2. Value-Based Care
Value-based care is an emerging trend aimed at delivering better health, more affordably. This is a transition from the traditional care model, commonly called fee-for-service, where providers are reimbursed based on the number of tests they order, patients they see or procedures they do.

With value-based care, healthcare organizations are reimbursed based on the achievement of health outcomes, rather than solely on encounters, tests, and procedures.

There are several healthcare models that already include elements of value-based care, like Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) or Patient-Centered Medical Homes (PCMHs) where overall patient health is considered during the reimbursement process. These models rely on electronic health records riding on a reliable IT platform, which creates a longer-term view of the patient experience and outcomes – versus the discrete “billable instance” model of the past. These systems must also be interoperable, as providers and specialists outside your own clinic may contribute to the achievement of a result.

Is your organization transitioning to value-based care? We’d love to hear about how you’re making the transition and if your patients have experienced a difference in outcomes. Does this shift increase the degree of reliance and scrutiny you put on your EHR and other IT-based medical systems?

3. Analytics
We’re more than a few years into electronic health records and collecting data using technology rather than paper charts. Several conference breakouts focused on the topic of data and analytics throughout the spectrum of care. Now that we have all this data and analytics, the questions shift to “how do we use it? How do we store it? How do we access it?”

For our clients, we play a large role in how data is collected, stored and accessed. And, as a strategic advisor, we have the great responsibility of providing access and referrals to industry partners that can help make sense of the pieces of data and analytics that we don’t handle directly.

Attending these two conferences helped us further understand what challenges and priorities our FQHC clients are facing in the next 12-18 months. As technology continues to develop as a vital part of the care delivery system, this information helps us partner with our clients to achieve the best possible results for their patients and their businesses.