Federally funded community health centers perform equal to or better than private practices on a number of quality-care measures, according to a new study. The results demonstrate that community health centers are capable of providing high-quality care to an often complex patient population.
When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act goes into full effect in 2014, the government hopes it will add somewhere between 29 million and 32 million Americans to the rolls of the insured, many of whom will receive their care through a large expansion of Medicaid. But with the expansion comes a worry: Who will give primary care to all the newly insured, many of whom currently avoid the doctor or receive all their medical attention in hospital emergency rooms?
The Obama administration has pinned its hopes in part on so-called Federally Qualified Health Centers, which receive special reimbursement perks in exchange for providing primary care to underserved communities. But little research had evaluated whether such centers provided adequate care to their communities.
In the new study, researchers at UC San Francisco, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins analyzed data from a large, three-year government survey of visits to primary care physicians in different types of medical settings. The survey collected information on four categories of care: drug management of common chronic diseases, preventive counseling for smoking cessation, diet and exercise, appropriate use of common screening tests (like blood pressure tests and electrocardiograms), and appropriate writing of prescriptions for elderly patients. The researchers compared how the doctors in different settings performed against accepted standards of care.