Patient Care at Community Health Centers Rivals Private Practices, Study Finds
The news on quality of care in the U.S. healthcare safety net is surprisingly good, according to a recent study by Dr. Randall Stafford M.D., Ph.D. of Stanford University and colleagues from the University of California, San Francisco.
Despite treating significantly more “medically and socially complex patients” than those seen by private providers, community health centers actually provide “better care than do private practices,” says the study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
These findings are important as safety-net health facilities, such as the Federally Qualified Health Centers studied, are poised to play a critical role in providing care for the estimated 32 million uninsured persons set to gain coverage by 2019 through the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The study is a cross-sectional examination of 73,074 patient visits between 2006 and 2008, derived from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS).
Stafford’s team assessed how well physicians followed professional and federal guidelines for 18 health measures ranging from management of chronic illness to preventive counseling, diagnostics and appropriate prescription for the elderly.
Physicians at community health centers bested their private counterparts on six measures, fared worse on one (diet counseling for at-risk adolescents) and were roughly equal on the remaining 11 measures.
“These are centers where physicians are not as profit-driven and many have incentives more in line with providing quality care,” said Dr. Stafford.
Direct Relief USA works with more than 1,000 clinic partners across the country, more than half of which are Federally Qualified Health Centers like the ones studied. The report confirms that the patients Direct Relief’s clinic partners serve can access quality care from what many acknowledge is an already-strained network caring for a disproportionate share of socially vulnerable and chronically ill patients.