Funding and the regulatory requirements for FQHCs have always topped the worry list of most executives in the community healthcare space. While funding typically had declined across the healthcare space, the Affordable Care Act expanded both funding and coverage for patients in our communities.
More recently, staffing has also been a huge concern, not to mention living through COVID. What’s next for these organizations that play an increasingly vital role in the U.S. safety net for poor and underserved communities.
Medical Trends in Community Health
The increasing wave of medical consumerism has changed our access to care. Not only did the pandemic increase our use of teleconferencing facilities, but the Commonwealth Fund also reports that more community health centers are responding to patients’ desires for more immediate care by offering an increased number of same- or next-day appointments. They also report an increase in innovative models of care, such as patient-centered medical homes.
Of course, though, the big healthcare trend for the past two years has been how we respond to COVID. One study in Ambulatory Care Management (ACM) found “Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) have been essential in novel coronavirus-2019 (COVID-19) response in medically underserved communities, which are among the highest COVID-19 risk populations outside of long-term care facilities.” The virus changed infection protocols, staffing workflows, reporting, and of course, we learned much about how to successfully treat these patients. The ACM study concludes that FQHCs were on the frontlines of rapid detection protocols for disease in vulnerable populations, creating “new and more sensitive indicators of infectious trends that share temporal and geographic information and improve our ability to forecast and our early warning systems.”
COVID changed healthcare in other ways, too. More patients will expect and receive care at home. Virtual healthcare became standard during the pandemic. Hc1 says, “Now that patients and providers are more comfortable with the technology, many believe this shift toward at-home care whenever possible will be permanent.”
This trend also makes sense within the context of the increasing proliferation of wearable devices. Called the “Internet of Things” (IoT), remote sensors worn by patients at home will increasingly combine with telemedicine to provide a kind of “digital house call.”
Larger health systems (with larger budgets) will increasingly invest in other technologies, as well, to automate many of the manual workflows that bog us down. In time, these tools within the artificial intelligence (AI) sciences will make their way into every technology we use in the FQHC community.
Value-based care is still on the horizon for most FQHCs. More are implementing advanced payment models, but the transformation is in its infancy. A study in Fierce Healthcare reports 78% of FQHC leaders say it will take up to two years to transition to value overpay for performance when payers shift how they reimburse.
No matter the medical trend, UHC Solutions remains at the forefront of our drive to find top talent in the community healthcare space. If you’re feeling the effects of staffing shortages, our organization can help.