Update From the Field: National Association of Community Health Centers March 2019
Last week, the BIF team visited Bond Community Health Center in Tallahassee, Florida and Eau Claire Cooperative Health in Columbia, South Carolina to conduct interviews with leaders, staff, and patients as we continue our work with the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). BIF and NACHC leadership are joining forces to explore the questions:
How might we shift our lens to uncover innovation opportunities that will transform how we serve patients?
How might we collaboratively innovate, going farther together?
How might we continue to promote equality in the healthcare system?
We learned a lot in our four day trip down South, and a few insights emerged as we look toward the next phase of the project.
Key Insights we Learned from their Healthcare Leaders:
The role of Technology in healthcare systems
When speaking with leadership teams at the sites, we learned that technology is helpful but not the long term solution to fix the healthcare system. According to Donnell Durden, Coordinator of Community Relations and Outreach at Bond Community Health Center:
“All of the technology works, it helps, it helps us amplify our message. But nothing is more important than getting outside, touching the people, shaking hands… reaching out to them; letting them know that we are here for them, we want their business, but more so, we’re here.”
Emerging technologies help deliver value in the real world, but are not at the core of creating healthier communities. Technology can be utilized as a component to support larger system changes that focus on the human experience first. If they’re constrained by today’s business model, technologies will only deliver tweaks, not transformation. It is crucial that we consider technology to be a supplementary aspect of innovation, rather than innovation itself.
Medical services are only 20% of the health centers job-to-be-done
Keeping in mind the increased importance of the social determinants of health when considering the actual services needed to successfully run a community health center, medical services only cover about 20% of all patient needs. The remaining patient’s jobs-to-be-done are met through enabling wraparound services like transportation, having access to childcare, caseworkers, insurance specialists, social workers, and nutrition education outreach, among others. While none of these wraparound services are actually separate from a comprehensive care model, often these services are unacknowledged in traditional healthcare experiences. The wraparound enabling services compose the majority of what community health centers do for people, but these services are often non-billable and intangible in healthcare. By adopting a more evolved definition of what health and wellness look like for individuals, we gain a better understanding of service gaps and experiences, realizing that wraparound services provide a more holistic and comprehensive solution to their pain points.
What innovation means to healthcare leaders
When speaking with community health center leadership teams, we gathered that innovation means changing the way care is provided to better serve patients and families, leading to healthier, wholesome outcomes. It also means not accepting the status quo. But what does innovation look like within community health centers? Dr. Robinson, CEO of Bond Community Health Center posed the question:
“When we consider innovation, we need to ask ourselves- Is it a good fit in the community? Does it fit the mission? Is it feasible and sustainable? Can you see passion and excitement among your team and will that lead to lasting partnerships?”
Innovation means staying true to your core values while also not allowing the way systems work today to dictate what’s possible for a better future. Eau Claire Cooperative Health Center’s leadership team focuses on how their founder instilled in them the mindset and perspective that there isn’t anything they can’t do. Innovation isn’t easy in this context, but core business models need to change if we strive to continue breaking down the barriers of inequality in healthcare.
Look out for the next update from the field highlighting the patient perspective as we continue to make discoveries in our research with NACHC.
For more on our work, visit our case study here: National Association of Community Health Centers Case Study