August 9-15 is 2020 National Health Center Week, a time to recognize and honor health centers, which are more critical to their communities than perhaps ever before. This year’s theme, “Lighting the Way for Healthier Communities Today and in the Future,” is particularly apt. Health centers have gone above and beyond, fighting on the front lines against COVID-19 – and continue to do so each day.
Community health centers fill a critical role in the national, state and local responses to the coronavirus pandemic. Health centers are playing a big part in response efforts by providing tests, triaging patients and reducing the burden on hospitals. They also are helping meet the demand for behavioral health services while providing primary care for patients with chronic conditions.
Health centers serve more than 28 million people in the United States. Of that amount, 91% are considered low-income and 63% are minorities.
Did you know? 96% of health centers have COVID-19 testing available, and 79% have drive-thru/walk-up testing capability, according to July 24, 2020, data from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Health centers’ patients have been hit especially hard by COVID-19 and need those services.
Health centers have had their share of challenges like the rest of the healthcare industry, including having to adjust to drops in patient visits for non-essential health care, and staff members who are unable to work for health or other reasons. But during the pandemic, health centers have ramped up testing and virtual visits. Despite a 43% drop in patient visits compared to before the pandemic, health centers are now conducting about 51% of visits virtually or over the phone, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Here are a few examples of how health centers are working hard to provide for their patients during this time:
- The Family Health Centers of San Diego serves low-income communities and patients, many of whom are uninsured. The nonprofit Family Health Centers’ lab worked to expand its testing capacity and now processes up to 500 tests a day so that patients can get results in 48 hours.
- Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems in Tazewell, Virginia, is increasing access to COVID-19 testing by offering it through a drive-thru site.
- On July 28, Douglas County, Colorado, commissioners approved a contract with STRIDE Community Health to provide mobile COVID-19 tests starting in September and running through December 20.
- St. Louis County in Missouri recently announced a partnership with a group of community health centers to increase COVID-19 testing. The county is committing $578,000 to Betty Jean Kerr People’s Health Centers in federal coronavirus relief money to help fund the sites. The organization has health centers in Ferguson and in north St. Louis County, along with two in St. Louis.
The pandemic has dramatically changed how the entire healthcare industry delivers outpatient care. Community health centers across the country continue to adapt their services in response to COVID-19 while everything is changing rapidly – including their operations, financials and long-term care models. But health centers keep fighting and lighting the way in their communities.
To health centers everywhere, eSolutions stands beside you and supports your fight. We’re honored to serve you while you work hard to keep your communities safe. Here’s to you on National Health Center Week!