PHMC and the IBC Foundation Partner to Address Health Care Gaps in Philadelphia

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Sharing of data helps identify care gaps, demonstrates value of investment in access to care.

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Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) and the Independence Blue Cross (IBC) Foundation today announced a new partnership to share information about access to health care services in Philadelphia. By combining data from the IBC Foundation related to the 34 private, nonprofit health clinics it funds throughout the region with data from PHMC’s Community Health Data Base (CHDB) Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey, the organizations will learn more about the populations the clinics serve and the savings the clinics contribute to our region’s health care system, such as reductions of approximately 20% in emergency room visits and of approximately 10% in hospitalization, among patients of Federally Qualified Health Centers versus private practices. The analysis of this information will help PHMC and the IBC Foundation better understand where needs are not being adequately met and more effectively target gaps related to caring for clinic patients.

“In Philadelphia, 149,800 adults under 65 years, and 18,000 children, are living without any public or private health insurance coverage,” says CHDB program director Francine Axler. “This indicates a considerable gap when it comes to accessing health care. Through our partnership with the IBC Foundation, our survey data can help identify at-risk populations and disparities so that more targeted support can be provided to those who are most vulnerable. This could translate into determining where funding goes and what specific services are provided.”

In late summer, PHMC will issue the first in a series of research briefs, drawing from the joint data, exploring access to care issues in Philadelphia and other southeastern Pennsylvania counties, as well as the outcomes that funding can help influence. For example, PHMC’s initial assessment of the IBC Foundation’s data shows clinics funded first through the IBC Charitable Medical Care program from 2004-2010, and now through the IBC Foundation, have increased their capacity dramatically:

  •     The number of patients served annually across the clinics has risen approximately 40%
  •     The number of primary care visits provided across the clinics has risen approximately 80%

The IBC Foundation annually gathers detailed data from clinics including total patient visits, services used, insurance status, and Medicaid eligibility. In addition, the Foundation collects other useful information such as whether clinics use electronic medical records or whether the clinic may be in need of expanded services or space.

What’s more, according to Alex Lehr O’Connell, director of technical assistance and consultation for Community Health Partners for Sustainability, a program of PHMC affiliate National Nursing Centers Consortium, “the clinics’ overall annual operating budgets, across all sites, have shown 59% growth since the funding began, reflecting their ability to leverage investment from IBC Foundation to access other opportunities, most recently including major funding programs authorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. PHMC expects to explore this ability to leverage funds in greater depth in one of the upcoming briefs.”

CHDB data help to clarify the critical importance of these increases in service capacity. In Philadelphia, 16.1% of adults ages 18 to 64 years do not have any public or private health insurance coverage, and 12.3% do not have a regular source of health care to turn to when ill. Due to the large sample size of its Household Health Survey, PHMC is able to analyze its data in small geographic areas and identify trends over the more than 25 years of the survey. “By coupling this with information from the IBC Foundation-funded clinics, we hope to gain insight into how funding helps clinics meet community needs, the impact of these clinics on health care savings, as well as information about what unmet needs require further investment,” says Lehr O’Connell.

“While the partnership focuses on the rich data from both organizations, it is the impact on individuals that drives PHMC and the IBC Foundation,” says Lorina Marshall-Blake, president of the IBC Foundation. “We are excited about the results of this analysis and the opportunities it will bring to improve access to quality care for more people in our region.”

For example, three years ago when Kathleen Jones first came to PHMC’s Rising Sun Health Center in the Northeast Philadelphia community in which she lives, the 58-year old resident was uninsured and struggling to control a chronic disease. “I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes,” recalls the mother and grandmother. “I was having trouble managing it.” At Rising Sun Health Center, a nonprofit provider of public health resources supported by grants from IBC Foundation, Jones received the consistent care she needed.

Rising Sun is one of five community-based locations within Public Health Management Corporation’s network of primary care health centers that pride themselves on going beyond care, providing not only physical health services but also integration with behavioral health, respect for every client and access to the broader spectrum of services available through the hundreds of programs provided by PHMC and its affiliates. “Meaningful data and partnerships with organizations such as the IBC Foundation help make this happen,” says Axler.

Through IBC Foundation’s Blue Safety Net grants, 34 private, nonprofit health clinics in Pennsylvania received more than $2 million dollars in 2011, funds that help serve uninsured Pennsylvanians. Among the centers benefitting from IBC’s support are PHMC’s Mary Howard Health Center, Philadelphia’s only primary care health center exclusively serving the homeless population, and PHMC Health Connection, as well as Rising Sun Health Center.

For more information and to register to receive a full copy of the upcoming brief, please contact Francine Axler at francine(at)phmc(dot)org.

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About CHDB
Public Health Management Corporation’s Community Health Data Base Household Health Survey is one of the largest regional health surveys in the country. The Pew Charitable Trusts, William Penn Foundation, United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, United Way of North Penn, CIGNA Foundation, Green Tree Community Health Foundation, Philadelphia Foundation, North Penn Community Health Foundation, Thomas Scattergood Foundation and over 350 local agencies from the health, government, nonprofit and academic sectors help to support CHDB. To view previous data news releases, please click here. For more information, or to access key findings from previous years, please visit http://www.chdbdata.org.

About PHMC
Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) is a nonprofit public health institute that creates and sustains healthier communities. PHMC uses best practices to improve community health through direct service, partnership, innovation, policy, research, technical assistance and a prepared workforce. PHMC has served the region since 1972. For more information on PHMC, visit http://www.phmc.org.

About the Independence Blue Cross Foundation
Launched in October 2011, the Independence Blue Cross Foundation is an independent, private foundation whose mission is to transform health care through innovation in the communities it serves. The IBC Foundation and Independence Blue Cross are both committed to improving the health and wellness of the people of southeastern Pennsylvania. The foundation targets the following areas of impact:

  • Caring for our most vulnerable: Supporting nonprofit health clinics that deliver quality, cost-effective primary, medical, and dental care to uninsured and underinsured people.
  • Enhancing health care delivery: Strengthening the nursing workforce through education, career development, and research.
  • Leading innovative approaches to health care: Supporting new and creative solutions that reduce health care spending, improve quality, and expand access to care.
  • Building healthy communities: Partnering with community leaders and programs to address community health and wellness needs

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Lulu Todorov
Public Health Management Corporation
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