Women2Women - Winter 2018 - 29
Community Health Needs Spotlight: Access to Care
When local partners conducted the 2016 Community Health Needs
Assessment, one of the key health issues to emerge was access to care.
In other words, too many people in Berks County lacked access to
quality medical care, most often due to social determinants such as
poverty, homelessness, mental illness or language barriers. To improve
access to care, local health partners have worked - and continue to work
- to implement and strengthen initiatives that eliminate barriers to care.
These initiatves are wide-reaching and collaborative, a hallmark of the
programs that have come from the CHNA.
One example of improving access to care is the Reading Hospital's
Street Medicine Program, a community initiative that brings medical care
directly to some Berks County individuals by providing care at shelters,
soup kitchens, Hispanic Center and tent sites. Reading Hospital physicians
and providers work together to treat patients and provide traditional
healthcare services as needed. In 2016, the program successfully treated
more than 500 underserved residents in Berks County. The program helps
to reduces hospital stays and provides medical care to people who might
otherwise not seek treatment.
The Street Medicine Program reaches out to people who are homeless
by providing care in non-threatening and easily accessible environments
for patients. The collaboration between medical providers helps create a
multidisciplinary approach that provides social services as well as medical
care to local individuals.
Berks Community Health Center will offer a quick survey to Medicare and
Medicaid patients who receive medical treatment. If a patient's answers
indicate they have unmet social needs, a Reading Hospital community
navigator hired specifically for this initiative will work to link patients
with the appropriate social services. Reading Hospital is formulating its
processes and procedures during the first year, and survey distribution
and work with patients will begin in Spring 2018.
Bringing care to those who need spurred a variety of creative and thoughtful
approaches. Penn State Health St. Joseph (PSHSJ) created the HealthOne
Mobile Health Initiative, a doctor's office on wheels that was launched with
the Giorgio family of companies at the end of 2016. The van will be staffed
with nurse practitioners, a medical technician and assistant. For employees
who might not be able to prioritize or make time for a physical or other
appointments, this mobile clinic can provide valuable health services.
The category of access to care is far-reaching in our county. Penn State
Health St. Joseph (PSHSJ) has utilized the findings to expand breast cancer
screening for the underserved, including recent grants from the Susan G.
Komen Foundation at the national and state level. The hospital's efforts
to assist uninsured urban and Latina women were recently recognized
and funded by the Prevent Cancer Foundation.
Reading Hospital and community partners also will be reaching out to
people in need through a program that positions Reading Hospital as a
"hub" that will help bridge the gap between medical care and social services
for local Medicare and Medicaid patients. Via a grant, this program will
help test the federal agency's Accountable Health Communities (AHC)
care model. The model is designed to increase Medicare and Medicaid
beneficiaries' access to and awareness of available services and to ensure
that community partners are aligned to provide patients with necessary
services and support.
Access to care also includes dental care. The PSHSJ Downtown Campus
dental clinic recently wrapped up a two-year PA Department of Health
Community Based Health Care Program (CBHCP) grant to enhance and
expand access to children and adults with little or no insurance. PSHSJ
also works actively with the Berks County Oral Health Task Force on a
comprehensive public awareness and education strategy around the
importance of preventative dental care in early childhood. The hospital is
also active on a task force subcommittee currently studying the feasibility
of mobile dental services for hard to reach patients in urban and rural areas.
The goal of the program is to enhance Medicare and Medicaid patients'
health by identifying their unmet social needs and aligning them with
agencies that can provide those services.
"Studies show that patients' medical outcomes are better when social
needs such as housing stability, food availability and transportation are
met," says Desha Dickson, Director of Community Health and Engagement,
Reading Hospital. "We are working with our community partners to meet
residents where they are to address social needs to improve their health."
Reading Hospital has partnered with the Berks Community Health
Center and numerous community social services agencies to create the
Berks Accountable Health Communities Consortium. Under the five-year
pilot program, which began in May 2017, Reading Hospital and the
Spotlights on the rest of the CHNA health issues will appear in future
issues of Women2Women.
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