The little center that could

By Bernie Monegain
12:24 PM

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.”

BVCHC is building interfaces to connect with the local hospitals and the ER at those hospitals. Budd expects those interfaces to be ready in a year or a year and a half.

“There are so many different ways to connect things,” Budd says. “For me, it’s all about savings and that economies of scale idea because you can imagine a little health center like we are going to a hospital and saying ‘we’d like to build an interface with you.’ They’ve probably got everyone and their mother right now asking to build interfaces because that’s what you have to do for meaningful use. For me to be able to go to them and say, ‘here are all the covered lives that you get access to because we’ve got this networked infrastructure and you only have to manage one interface,’ it’s a really compelling argument.”

Lavoie sees the technology as making it possible for the clinicians to concentrate on their patients and to work together.

“The value of this patient-focused model is that it provides the ability to consolidate disparate health data from various providers such as primary care, behavioral health, dental, in-patient and specialty care,” he says. “Providers and staff utilize these tools to improve quality, efficiency and comfort for our patients while lowering costs to the system.”

“BVCHC’s workflow and visit redesign encourages team members to support providers by sharing the administrative aspects of care,” Lavoie adds. “Our patients and clinicians benefit from this team approach which allows providers and patients the time to build lasting relationships that will enhance health and wellness.”

“We kind of changed our care delivery model to fit that and harness the power of technology to make that work most efficiently,” says Budd. “The PCMH model of care helps position BVCHC to adapt and succeed in the rapidly changing healthcare environment, where the emphasis is transitioning from increased visit and procedure volumes to increased quality and outcomes.”