A new study in Health Services Research shows that patients, particularly those who do not have health insurance and receive care at Community Health Centers, have fewer hospitalizations. They also receive similar or a better quality of preventive care compared to similar patients of non-health center primary care providers.
“These findings suggest that federally funded health centers could be a more efficient system of primary care especially for the uninsured,” said Neda Laiteerapong, M.D., the study’s lead author and assistant professor of medicine at University of Chicago. “The fact that patients in our study had fewer office visits and received similar or better quality of care could suggest that these centers do more preventive care per visit.”
Researchers looked at data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey between 2004 and 2008 for the study. They analyzed data from a sample of adult patients who visited a health center over a two year period of time and compared it to the outcomes of non-health center patients. In addition to fewer hospital visits, health center patients were also more likely to have received dietary advice and breast cancer screening.
Georges C. Benjamin, M.D., executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA), Washington D.C., also responded to the study saying “It verifies that if you have a coordinated care model, you can have better outcomes most of the time—this is a good example of where health reform is going.” He also added, “We know only 10 percent of primary care wellness is about going to the doctor’s office,” he said. “It’s the behavioral things that matter and federally-funded clinics understand that very well
Also, since we’re talking about quality of care, it’s worth noting again that a previous study by the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of California-San Francisco, (July 2012) found that health centers demonstrated equal or better quality performance than private practices on ambulatory quality measures, despite serving patients with more chronic disease and socieoeconomic complexity.