How Well Do Community Health Centers Really Work?

Better care.
For the most vulnerable patients.
For less.

That’s what community health centers provide.

Better Care…
For the Most Vulnerable…
For Less…

Better Care …

The proof is in the results. Community health centers exceed the national average in:

  • Keeping chronically ill patients healthy and out of hospitals and ERs
  • Entering women into prenatal care during the first trimester and reducing the need for hospital-provided care to expectant mothers
  • Increasing childhood immunization rates
  • Reducing low birth weight rates1

A study funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute found that community health centers perform as well or better than private practices in caring for low-income and uninsured patients. CHC care providers were more likely to adhere to quality guidelines. Adherence was highest for measures of chronic disease management.2

Another study released by the California Primary Care Association found that community health center, or FQHC, patients were less likely to require an emergency room visit, an inpatient stay, or a 30-day readmission to the hospital.3

CHCs are required to participate in quality improvement programs to receive federal grants. This means that performance on quality measures must be tracked and reported. This reinforces adherence to best practices and quality guidelines. It also improves identification of problem areas, so they can be solved as quickly as possible.

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For the Most Vulnerable…

Community health centers:

  • Served 22.3 million people in medically underserved communities in 2012, including 26 percent of Californians4
  • Serve a patient base in which 36 percent are uninsured (85% are uninsured or publicly insured)5
  • Serve a patient base in which 93 percent live below 200 percent of the federal poverty level

Compared to other primary care providers, health centers are more likely to:

  • Accept new patients
  • Offer more flexible office hours
  • Provide dental, mental health, and pharmacy services
  • Serve more chronically ill and minority patients
  • Provide translation and other enabling services to make care more accessible for patients6

Health centers in the community mean more access to more health care services for the uninsured and the underinsured resident.

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For Less…

Not only do community health centers provide more services for uninsured and uninsured residents than other practices, they provide quality care for less. Compared with alternative sources of care that uninsured patients seek when they do not have a primary care home, community health centers averaged more than a $1 per day per patient in savings:

Average Cost Per Patient Per Day7

Hospital inpatient $41.36
Hospital outpatient 7.59
Emergency rooms 3.64
All physician settings 2.64
Community health centers 1.67

A study found that community health centers save $1,263 per patient each year.8

Next: Patient-Centered Medical Homes: Taking the Next Logical Step

The Southside Coalition Story
Community Health Centers: Better Care, For Less
The Problems Community Health Centers Address
The South Los Angeles Safety Net: Filling the Gaps
How the Southside Coalition Is Strengthening the Local Safety Net

1Comments by NACHC President and CEO Tom Van Coverden.
2L. E. Goldman et al. 2012.
3California Primary Care Association. 2012.
6NACHC. 2011 (March). p. 2.
7Ibid, p. 3.
8Ibid, p. 3.