There is a lot of buzz and chatter in the halls as thousands of health center leaders gather for the 2014 NACHC CHI and EXPO now going on in San Diego. The education sessions and meetings cover a variety of topics central to the operations of Community Health Centers, which now serve 23 million people, or 1 in 15 people in the US. A key focus is continuing the value that health centers bring to the healthcare marketplace in terms of clinical quality, access and cost-savings. NACHC Board Chair Gary Wiltz, MD, touched on those same topics and the importance of operational excellence at yesterday’s General Session, noting that nearly 50 percent of health centers have had at least one site recognized as a Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH).
“We are now and will continue to be America’s premier healthcare homes,” Wiltz said in his widely tweeted remarks.
Wiltz also underscored the importance of the health center “playbook,” or the ACCESS plan, even though fiscal challenges do lie ahead. One of those challenges–and a constant buzz throughout this conference–is the primary care funding cliff. Health centers can face a funding cut of up to 70 percent when mandatory funding from the Affordable Care Act expires after next year. If Congress does not provide a fix, and if no additional states adopt the Medicaid expansion, patient loads at health centers could fall by as much as 25 percent, according to some estimates. NACHC staff have also unveiled new online resources for health centers to help them educate the public, their patients and elected leaders about the issue, with message points, articles, background information and much more.
In terms of information, though, the CHI is overflowing with fresh ideas, data, conversations and strategies that are useful for any healthcare professional. Wander into an education session and you can find out the latest on outreach and enrollment best practices at CHCs going into the next installment of open enrollment in November. Or you can hear about growing a strong primary care workforce, or boosting oral health access. Stay tuned as we try to keep you up to date via this blog. And don’t forget to follow the hashtag on Twitter at #NACHCchi14.