Independence Blue Cross Foundation commits $1.5 million to improve access to primary care

Local health centers define priorities through Blue Safety Net Needs Assessment conducted by Drexel University School of Public Health

Philadelphia, Pa, Pennsylvania, UNITED STATES

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 2, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Independence Blue Cross Foundation (Foundation) has committed $1.5 million in grants over the next three years to meet the increased demand for access to primary care and improve models of care in regional safety net health centers.

The announcement follows a five-month needs assessment of the Foundation's Blue Safety Net health center grant recipients, which was conducted by Drexel University's School of Public Health. The Blue Safety Net is a network of 42 non-profit, privately funded health centers that serve more than 200,000 individuals annually across the five-county region and are a source of primary care for thirteen percent of the region's uninsured individuals. The assessment determined the needs of these health centers and recommended two priorities for Foundation resources: to increase access to care through technology and to implement new models to improve care coordination.

"Community health centers provide affordable, quality health care in medically underserved communities. We are eager to better understand how we can more strategically support their mission and steer them to increased sustainability during this time of unprecedented change in health care," says Lorina Marshall-Blake, president of the Foundation.

More than three dozen Blue Safety Net funded health centers of varying sizes and models participated in the assessment through a series of focus groups and surveys. The results from the assessment were:

  • Increase access to care through technology or other services
    • To eliminate barriers to care, some health centers want to extend hours of operation, add language interpretation services,
    • To support remote care, health centers want to explore telehealth or mobile services.
  • Implement new models to improve care coordination
    • Clinics are interested in addressing the underlying causes of poor health or integrating behavioral health into primary care.
    • More than half of the Blue Safety Net grantees would use special project funding from the Foundation to support integration of behavioral health services.
    • Of the Blue Safety Net grantees, 30 percent are part of a health information exchange (HIE). Of those not already part of an HIE, 32 percent are interested in joining an HIE in the future, and 26 percent currently have the organizational capacity to join an HIE.

The $1.5 million in Foundation grants will fund specific projects over the next three years for health centers. Such projects include helping organizations create a truly collaborative and healing environment that improves efficacy in the treatment of traumatized individuals. Other projects could include the use of technology through telemedicine to increase access to health services.

The Foundation is the largest and longest-running source of private charitable corporate grant funding for Southeastern Pennsylvania health centers. Since 2004, Independence and the Foundation have awarded more than $24 million to 50 non-profit, privately-funded health centers. By increasing access to primary care and integrated health services, Blue Safety Net-supported health centers provide care to individuals who might otherwise seek care at emergency rooms, helping to reduce health care costs in 2014 by nearly $12 million.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of America's community health centers, the largest and most successful system of primary health care in the U.S. Health centers and safety net hospitals are a primary source of care for children and families covered by Medicaid. Health centers are facing growing difficulty providing adequate access to primary care and sufficient capacity given the increasing number of people who have obtained coverage through the Affordable Care Act. In addition to increasing patient volume, health centers are also challenged to take care of an increasing number of people with serious, uncontrolled health conditions, and to handle new demands for better integration of services and technology.

About the Independence Blue Cross Foundation

The Independence Blue Cross Foundation is a charitable, private foundation, whose mission is leading solutions for a healthier community. The Foundation targets the following areas of impact:

  • Securing the Blue Safety Net: Supporting private, nonprofit community health centers that increase access to quality, affordable healthcare in medically underserved areas.
  • Bolstering the Health Care Workforce: Strengthening the nursing, primary care, and allied health workforce through education, career development, and research.
  • Addressing Health Priorities: Collaborating with wellness partners to tackle the region's most pressing health challenges; currently combating the obesity epidemic through the Independence Blue Cross Foundation Healthy Futures Initiative.
  • Building Healthier Communities: Partnering with community leaders and programs to address community health and wellness needs.

Learn more by visiting our website: Connect with the Independence Blue Cross Foundation on Twitter and Instagram at @ibxfdn.


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