The little center that could

Blackstone Valley Community Health Center operates at three locations in and around Pawtucket, R.I.

Technology helps Rhode Island health center concentrate on patients

PAWTUCKET, RI – As Heather Budd tells it, Ray Lavoie, executive director of Blackstone Valley Community Health Care (BVCHC), which serves uninsured and under-insured patients, believes that a small, government-funded health center like Blackstone can provide care that equals or even rivals the care delivered by the private sector.

That point of view almost certainly translated to the recent recognition BVCHC received, says Budd, BVCHC’s quality management director.

Budd says Lavoie envisioned a data-driven infrastructure for managing the practice, and he invested in technology that would help make it happen.

“He saw the future coming with healthcare reform and payment reform and all of that,” she says. “He was going to have to manage the data in order to survive, so he made that the biggest priority.”

The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) recently designated BVCHC as a Level 3 Patient Centered Medical Home, which means it excels in its use of health information technology to provide patient-focused care.

“This designation signifies the effectiveness of BVCHC’s comprehensive and inter-disciplinary care model, in addition to the considerable investment we’ve made in the technology needed to support exceptional patient care,” said BVCHC Medical Director Jerry Fingerut. “It is also a reflection of the daily hard work and dedication of every Blackstone employee.”

BVCHC, which operates at three locations in Rhode Island, has a history with the residents of Pawtucket and Central Falls that goes back more than 30 years. It was created in 1990 by the merger of two, small health centers that traced their community roots to the 1970s.

In 2010, the statistics BVCHC gathered showed that of the center’s 11,115 patients, 36.6 percent were uninsured; 48.6 percent received Medicaid benefits; 4.3 percent had Medicare coverage, and the remaining 10.5 percent had a private payer.

It seems that Lavoie was right to think a government-funded center with a large population of uninsured patients could deliver as good or better care. The technology he put in play – a NextGen electronic health record and practice management network – makes it possible to share data among the three locations and with as many as 100 other practices in the future, through BVCHC’s relationship with the Regional Extension Center. Lab and imaging interfaces are already established.

“We’re now set up as kind of an on-ramp for meaningful use,” Budd says. “Any practice that comes on will also get access to those lab interfaces. As soon as their hooked up they’re basically at the point where they can be a meaningful user. The infrastructure is there for them ready-made.”