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Parkland’s outpatient centers develop innovative programs to expand access to care

Parkland’s outpatient centers develop innovative programs to expand access to care

Celebrate National Health Center Week

Delivering high quality, cost-effective care to a growing number of patients can be a challenge for any healthcare organization. But through the use of innovative programs, staff with Parkland Health’s Community Oriented Primary Care (COPC) health centers have developed unique ways to provide access for patients needing primary and specialty care.

Since the network of neighborhood-based health centers came to fruition in the late 1980’s, staff has looked for ways to meet the growing demand for services. In fiscal year 2022, Parkland recorded more than 1.2 million outpatient visits, and that number continues to rise.

Local health centers serve more than 30 million patients at more than 14,500 communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U.S. territories. In 2021, health centers achieved a historic milestone of serving more than 30 million people, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. Health centers deliver primary healthcare to the nation’s underserved individuals and families, including one in three people living in poverty and one in five rural residents. Those centers are recognized annually during National Health Center Week, which this year is celebrated Aug. 6-12.

“Since its inception, the COPC staff has continually developed innovative programs to meet the increasing needs for services in our community health centers,” said Christina Mintner, Senior Vice President of Populations Health and Homeless Outreach Medical Services (HOMES) at Parkland. “As more people move to Dallas County and need primary and specialty care services it is incumbent on us to find ways to increase timely access. By having health centers located throughout the county, we are able to work with community organizations and agencies to help address the non-medical factors that influence health outcomes, like economic stability, education, food and community engagement.”

Beginning with the introduction of community-based behavioral health services in the mid-’90s to the launch of a variety of telemedicine specialty appointments, Parkland has been a national leader in developing population health management strategies.

In 2007, Parkland was one of the first in Texas to offer shared medical appointments (SMAs) with a group medication refill SMA. These appointments improve access to treatment, education and preventive care for patients. The program has steadily grown and Parkland now offers SMAs for newborn checkups, 2-4-month-old infant checkups, diabetes, asthma, smoking cessation and behavioral health, among others, at various Parkland outpatient facilities.

Another innovation is Parkland’s Today Clinics that provide immediate medical care for the treatment of acute illnesses and minor injuries on a non-emergency basis. The walk-in clinics, where no appointments are needed, were created to enhance continuity of care and increase access for patients in their community when their primary care provider is not available. The Today Clinics were initially funded by the generous contribution of an anonymous donor.

Staff also opened-six Acute Response Clinics (ARC) designed to provide transitional medical care for patients recently discharged from the hospital or treated in the emergency department needing a promptly scheduled follow-up visit in the outpatient service. Parkland health centers also offer “Walk-in Wednesday” clinics for parents to bring school-age children for vaccinations without an appointment.

Other services offered at Parkland COPCs include pharmacy, radiology, lab, behavioral health, Women & Infants Specialty Health programs and more. This year, Parkland is expanding its specialty care services to include gastroenterology (GI), liver and neurology clinics, while increasing the number of sites that offer comprehensive diabetes care for the growing number of pre-diabetic and diabetic patients in Dallas County.

“Whether it’s walk-in clinics for minor injuries or immunizations, specialty appointments in a group setting or via teleconferencing, Parkland health centers continue to redefine the way we deliver outpatient care to the patients of Dallas County,” said Noel Santini, MD, Vice President and Senior Medical Director, Ambulatory and Population Medicine at Parkland. “Our goal is to provide the highest possible quality of care for every individual in a cost-efficient manner, and we employ everything from high touch to high tech options to ensure timely access.”

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