Among the many programs offered by Pillars Community Health is a Federally Qualified Health Center that provides medical, dental, behavioral health, and related services. In August 2019, the Health Center received a HRSA Health Center Quality award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—marking the sixth consecutive year that Pillars Community Health has received such recognition and demonstrating that the Health Center consistently improves the lives of patients. The award included $67,000 in Quality Improvement Grant funding. The Health Center has also been recognized as a Health Center Silver Quality Leader, placing us among the top 20 percent of all health centers nationally for our clinical outcomes.
In the early 1960s, determined community health and civil rights advocates started a movement to help Americans access health care who might otherwise have limited health care resources or dollars to pay for care. What resulted was the creation of community health centers. Today there are more than 1,360 Federally Qualified Health Centers that served 28,379,680 persons in 2018. These Health Centers are staffed by highly qualified, trained professional doctors, dentists, mid-level professionals and other staff. Patients can receive care, regardless of their ability to pay.
HRSA grants Health Center Quality Leader status to those that have achieved the best overall clinical performance among all health centers and placed in the top 30% of the rankings and clinical quality measures. Quality Leader status was given to 20 of 44 Health Centers in Illinois and 411 of 1,362 Health Centers nationally. Of the 14 clinical indicators on which the organization was rated, outcomes placed Pillars Community Health in the top 25% for seven indicators and top 50% for three indicators. Those outcomes included:
- 5% of patients over the age of 12 were screened for clinical depression and if positive, had a follow-up plan documented compared to 71% nationally and 78% in Illinois.
- 8% of patients with hypertension had controlled blood pressure compared with 63% nationally and 62% in Illinois.
- 75% of patients were screened for cervical cancer, compared to 56% nationally and 61% in Illinois.
- 8% of our diabetic patients had Hemoglobin A1c that exceeded 9. Pillars Community Health is not satisfied with that percentage, and this is a measure that many community health centers and primary care practices struggle with. But due to the diligent efforts of our staff, this past year we were able to lower that percentage from 35% to 30.8%, thus performing better than the national health center average of 34%.
Some other comparisons of particular note highlight our great teamwork to increase access to and integrate medical, dental, and mental health services:
- 24% of our patients accessed both medical and dental services at the health center in 2018, far exceeding the national average of 7% and Illinois average of 4%.
- 50% of Health Center patients accessed mental health services in 2018. Nationally and in Illinois, about 7% of health center patients accessed mental health services in 2018.
- 31% of our patients were low-income and uninsured, thus increasing access to services for persons with financial barriers to care.
Another metric also highlights Pillars Community Health’s work to increase access and value:
- On average each of our patients had 4.3 clinical service encounters (medical, dental, or behavioral health) compared to 3.5 encounters on average in Illinois. While our cost per patient is higher than the average in Illinois ($958 for Pillars Community Health and $766 Illinois average), when the cost is divided by the average number of visits per patient, our cost per patient visit is very similar ($222, compared to an average of $218 per patient visit average in Illinois).