Collaborating to Improve Access and Care for Atlanta’s Safety Net Patients
The Atlanta Safety Net Collaborative Initiative worked together to strengthen their ability to serve the community’s most vulnerable patients. In the metro-Atlanta area, hundreds of thousands of low-income patients, many of whom remain uninsured, do not have adequate access to the care services they need.
As the primary providers for many of these patients, the Initiative’s members tackled these larger access issues and created a coordinated system of care. The Initiative identified a number of strategic initiatives and solutions to build upon as they moved forward in development. Programs include:
- Improving health outcomes and experiences for people who are medically underserved by creating patient centered medical homes (PCMH).
- Maximizing efficiencies of existing safety net resources through collaboration, service integration and elimination of duplication. These have included patient navigator and community health worker programs, medical staff privileges to the public hospital and increased access to that hospital’s electronic health record system.
- Designing a viable business model to assure sustainable use of public and private resources.
Resources and Support from the National Partnership
The National Partnership provided research assistance to the Initiative as they developed a larger program to address health care access problems. Some challenges the Initiative faced are familiar to all U.S. providers of health care to vulnerable populations. Others were specific to the state’s political context. For example, as of April 2015, Georgia has maintained its decision not to expand Medicaid. The National Partnership helped the Initiative navigate these challenges by providing federal and state legislative resources, case studies from other states, and guidance on promising solutions.
Leveraging Powerful Partnerships
The Atlanta Safety Net Collaborative Initiative comprised six local providers, all of which cared disproportionally for the underserved. Their partnership and shared goals created a distinct opportunity to improve care and access for their collective patient population.
As long-standing partners, the Initiative members knew how to leverage collaborative effort to accomplish their shared goals. Their commitment and dedication led to the success of their past efforts and they were able to move forward in finding efficient, low-cost solutions to improving access and care.
Responding to the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid Expansion
The Initiative’s efforts followed in the wake of larger health care reform initiated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Many low-income patients in the metro-Atlanta area were not able to access the critical care services they need. Similarly, Georgia’s decision not to expand Medicaid left many of these patients uninsured. Yet there are provisions within the ACA that helped increase access and improve care delivery. Together, the members of the Initiative found ways to activate these potential solutions as they navigated federal and state legislature. In addition, the Initiative explored options initiated in other non-expansion states that addressed increased access to services for the low income uninsured population.
Partners of the Atlanta Safety Net Collaborative Initiative
The Atlanta Safety Net Collaborative Initiative comprises the following organizations:
- Grady Health System: One of the largest public hospitals in the United States and the region’s premier level 1 trauma center
- Southside Medical Center: A Federally Qualified Health Center and Joint Commission certified Patient Centered Medical home that operates out of eight local clinics
- Family Health Centers (FHCGA) of Georgia: Formerly West End Medical Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center that operates as a NCQA Level 3 Patient Centered Medical Home
- Saint Joseph’s Mercy Care Services: Also known as Mercy Care, a Federally Qualified Health Center and NCQA certified Patient Centered Medical Home operating out of 14 sites, as well as Atlanta’s only Healthcare for the Homeless program
- Oakhurst Medical Center: A Federally Qualified Health Center and Joint Commission certified Patient Centered Medical home that operates out of four local clinics
- HEALing Community Center: A Federally Qualified Health Center specializing in head and neck cancer for patients within medically underserved zip codes