Stay ahead of healthcare industry news for FQHC and Health Center leaders with our monthly roundups. CareMessage curates the most important developments in healthcare technology, underserved patient care, value-based care, social determinants of health, and more to keep you informed in your role as a healthcare leader.
HHS has announced that it will award $100 million to 1,381 health centers provided through the CARES Act. The funds may be used for addressing screening and testing needs, boosting telehealth capacity and acquiring medical supplies needed to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act holds specific implications for FQHCs, some of which are outlined in this article. These include:
- Supplemental awards for FQHCs providing prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19.
- Reauthorization of HRSA grant programs that promote FQHC telehealth technologies.
- Limitation on liability for healthcare professionals providing volunteer medical services.
- FQHC and RHC allowance to serve as a “distant site” for Medicare telehealth services.
With 29 million Americans relying on them, community health centers are poised to play a critical role in the public health response to the coronavirus pandemic. With many already strained for resources, health centers are rethinking how they care for their patients, implementing new infectious disease protocols and temporarily shifting resources away from routine care. Some are telling patients to stay away unless care is absolutely necessary, a challenging shift from their normal focus on primary home care.
Patient Communication & Texting
This article addresses why it was important to rethink the strictness of HIPAA communications while dealing with the coronavirus. CMS has waived enforcement of HIPAA regulations as long as providers are acting in good faith. This has opened up the use of tools including FaceTime and Skype for physician examination which, under normal circumstances, did not comply with HIPAA regulations.
Serving the Underserved
New data released by the CDC reveals that people with chronic conditions, including heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes face an increased chance of hospitalization and being put in the ICU if they contract coronavirus. While the disease is typically more dangerous for the elderly, underlying conditions at any age are a dangerous risk factor for hospitalization and death.
The global pandemic will impact behavioral health, and FQHCs will face their own challenges. This Michigan-focused article covers the expectation that health centers will see a 50-60% reduction in revenue and that, while $100 million of the funds for health centers by Congress is expected to reach local operations, the total only amounts to $71,000 per health center.
With school-based health centers closed along with other services having been reduced, FQHCs are expected to see a direct impact on the mental health services they can offer.
Bayer has announced that it will donate one million products to help support healthcare in underserved communities. The over-the-counter medications and multivitamins will be delivered directly to those who can’t access them, through partnership with Direct Relief and later, Feeding America.
NCQA is maintaining updates based on CDC action on their site. As of March 27, they are prepared to conduct all business activity virtually and are continuing to deliver all surveys, systems, contract and grant-related services, and support. They are assessing events and large meetings with the intention of conversion to virtual events.
Social Determinants of Health
The global pandemic is highlighting the severity of American health disparities, which often align with social determinants. For example, while social distancing is challenging, it is especially difficult for the homeless who often have nowhere to go. Low-income individuals face similar issues and social distancing requirements may deter groups that visit places like senior centers and food banks from getting the support they need.
With many major cities stopping operations of non-essential businesses, many U.S. households are facing reductions in income from lost jobs and reduced hours. These changes directly impact social determinants through issues such as housing instability, food insecurity, discrimination, and social isolation.
A Community Vulnerability Map launched by Jvion, provider of clinical AI, identifies populations that are at risk for severe outcomes after contracting a virus like COVID-19. The map drills down to the census block level and can be made to surface socioeconomic and environmental factors including lack of access to nutritious food and transportation.
A study published in the Journal of General Internal medicine found that the rates of testing and treatment for hepatitis C virus (HCV) are low at FQHCs. It found that groups including women and the uninsured demonstrated lower odds of treatment initiation, highlighting the fact that FQHCs have potential to reach more patients as participants in HCV elimination goals.
Learn more about how CareMessage is responding to support Safety Net Providers during the coronavirus outbreak and fill out the below form if you'd like to connect.