NCFAHP at the Forefront of Accountable Care Communities

Maggie-Sauer“Accountable Care Community (ACC): a collaborative, integrated, and measurable multi-institutional approach that emphasizes shared responsibility for the health of the community, including health promotion and disease prevention, access to quality services and healthcare delivery.  The ultimate goal of the ACC is a healthier community.”  (Source: Healthier by Design: Creating Accountable Care Communities)

In health care, these are exciting times – or, some may say, frightful!  For the purposes of this newsletter, let’s stay on the positive side of the transformation and change underway.  For the first time, the work of health-care providers and communities can be formally linked and measured in tangible ways.

At NCFAHP’s Board of Directors retreat in November 2012, we began to consider our role in facilitating the development of a new Accountable Care Organization (ACO) model: a model that would include the expertise and services from community partners from the start of the ACO. Too often, ACOs create new services and hire providers to provide health and wellness services, health coaching, etc., rather than relying on community partners. Adding new service lines and providers seems unnecessary when the community is the better choice.

To date, meaningful participation of community health partners in these models has been lean, or often nonexistent. But Akron, OH, has been a pioneer in a new model that takes fuller advantage of community-based partners – an Accountable Care Community (ACC). A 2012 report by Austen BioInnovation Institute cites Community Care of NC as an early model of this approach. Akron’s model takes it one step further by including local growers to provide fresh fruits and vegetables and the National Park system to provide opportunities for better health through walking, kayaking or other physical activity.

The Institute reports that, while the Accountable Care Community may share characteristics with the ACO, there are also factors distinguishing the two:

  • “ACC encompasses not only medical delivery systems, but the public health system, community stakeholders at the grassroots level and community organizations whose work often encompasses the entire spectrum of health.
  • ACC focuses on the health outcomes of the entire population of a defined geographic region, rather than a defined and targeted population of health consumers selected by an ACO for their efforts at payment and care delivery reform.”

man-with-hands-upNatural systems of community care do not follow prescribed patterns of grouping community members together by patient type, but they do organize themselves and health behaviors according to the culture, leadership and priorities within the population. The ACC simply makes sense. Furthermore, as Dr. Janine Janosky, Vice President, Center for Clinical and Community Health Improvement at the Institute states: “As we think about the Accountable Care Community, we have the opportunity to impact the quality of life, and also the economic vitality of our community…”

woman-with-hands-upAt NCFAHP, the programs are designed to fit together and complement one another for the purpose of filling gaps to create relationships, services, training, and data compilation that do not “fit” in other places.  Workforce data to power the decisions in local communities to actively participate in the recruitment and, most importantly, retention of health-care providers is essential to the ACC.  Jackie Fannell’s work with Practice Sights provides some insight to this work.

classroomSince October 2014, the Foundation’s Bernstein Fellows program has emphasized the Fellows’ leadership role in creating accountable care communities. Communities are overwhelmed by the intricacies of the Accountable Care Organization model and see the opportunity and need for their participation in this complex structure. The Fellows are engaged and interested in creating a “place at the table” in their own communities and across North Carolina.

Part of the NCFAHP vision is to engage in innovation to:

  • Create strategies that significantly affect existing systems
  • Build on emerging elements within existing systems
  • Create new systems or strategies by creating partnerships resulting in unique opportunities to combine/refine services and resources
  • Improve on existing strategies or systems

The Fellows Program faculty includes individuals and organizations interested in promoting the ACC model across North Carolina.  True to the model, NCFAHP is not interested in duplicating the work of our colleagues, but instead leveraging the work to heighten awareness and create momentum.  We would like to thank the following individuals for providing inspiration and information to the Fellows:

  • Patrick Woodie, President, NC Rural Center, Misty Herget, Director of Leadership and Chilton Rogers, Director of Community Engagement
  • Ruth Petersen, MD, MPH, NC Division of Public Health, Section Chief for the Chronic Disease and Injury Section.
  • Greg Randolph, MD, MPH, Director of the Center for Public Health Quality and Professor of Pediatrics and Adjunct Professor of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • Grace Terrell, MD, CEO Cornerstone Health Care, P.A. a multiple specialty medical group in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina with more than 370 providers and 1800 employees who practice at fifteen separate hospitals.
  • Chris Collins, Director, NC Office of Rural Health and Community Care
  • Julian Bobbitt “Bo”, Partner, Smith Anderson Law Firm
  • Robin Tutor-Marcom, MPH, OTR/L, Director, NC Agromedicine Institute, East Carolina University
  • Kellan Moore, MPH, Executive Director and Willona Stallings, MPH, Care Share Health Collaborative
  • Kim Schwartz, MA, Chief Executive Officer, Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center
  • E. Benjamin Money, Jr., MPH, President and CEO, NC Community Health Center Association

The Accountable Care Community is the “glue” bringing these elements together in a comprehensive manner. Accountable Care Communities is a “whole- person, whole- community approach.”

The work continues with this team. Stay tuned, more to come!

-Maggie Sauer

CEO & President

Rural areas are not the only places for which health care access is a challenge.

In urban areas like Wilmington, North Carolina, access is also an issue, especially for teens and young adults in underserved populations who face barriers like transportation, location, and insurance coverage. Jill Boesel, the Development and Outcomes Director at WHAT, or Wilmington Health Access for Teens, has been a part of closing the gap and bringing health care closer to where teens and young adults are.

blood-pressure-doctorWHAT is a community-based nonprofit health care organization that focuses on improving health care access and integrated care for adolescents and young adults between the ages of 11 and 24 in the Wilmington area.

WHAT opened its first school-based health center in 1999 and currently runs centers in three of the four local public high schools in Wilmington. The centers are located on the high school campus, open to students as walk-ins or by appointment. The centers are staffed with multidisciplinary teams that include a primary provider, mental health counselor, and registered dietician at each site.

School-based health centers have several advantages from their location. In addition to overcoming the barriers mentioned above (transportation, geography and insurance coverage), WHAT minimize lost class time for students, as students are able to simply walk down the hall to their appointment. WHAT also minimizes lost work time for parents. Parental participation in appointments is strongly encouraged, but rather than a parent having to pick their child up, take them to the doctor and back to school, parents can simply come to the school for the appointment and then return to work.

In addition to offering health care services to students in the form of one-on-one appointments, WHAT also provides the entire school with ongoing education about the health care needs of students, and WHAT providers work closely with school counselors, social workers, faculty and administration to improve the overall health of students.

Along with the school-based clinics, WHAT also runs a centrally located facility that offers adolescents and young adults, ages 11-24, access to primary care, mental health, nutrition and prevention services. Three-quarters of the population served by WHAT clinics are either publicly insured or uninsured, which provides a fair share of challenges for the clinics, especially in the rapidly shifting health care environment in the country and in this state.

jill-boeselJill Boesel came to the Wilmington area and to WHAT in 2007, and her primary role focuses on seeking and securing public and private grants and managing current grants. She is also a member of the organization’s leadership team, and believes that the key to her work is communicating very effectively the advantages of having a school-based health center situated conveniently on campus for students and parents.

“The most cherished aspect of my job is having the ongoing opportunity to develop relationships with so many incredibly talented, energetic and committed people—both within and outside of Wilmington—who are working relentlessly to pave the way for a better tomorrow here in North Carolina, despite the often seemingly insurmountable challenges we face in health care today,” Boesel says.

She points out that WHAT is focused on “whole person care”, where the traditionally separated areas of primary care, mental health care, nutrition, and other areas occur within a connected network. This enables the provider in each area to be aware of what is going on in other areas and proactive in connecting the dots when appropriate to give the patient the best overall care possible. By having different types of providers serving patients in a team-based approach in the same location, integrated care works naturally and improves the patient experience and outcome.

Boesel is a current Bernstein Fellow, and her project is very fitting with the true integrity of the Bernstein Fellowship program and the mission of Jim Bernstein: ensuring access to health care for the populations that are most vulnerable in our state. She is exploring how WHAT as an organization can improve the use of data for population health and patient engagement, within the context of an integrated school-based healthcare setting.

Boesel says: “My fellowship has afforded me the unique opportunity to connect with others doing similar work throughout other regions of the state, including my “fellow Fellows” and many others.”

Top Benefits of a School-Based Health Center