HealthFirst Bluegrass, known until 2011 as the Primary Care Center of the Lexington Fayette County Health Department, is a federally qualified community health center.
Even though it's been designated and funded for 30 years, the former name has led to the misconception by many that the clinic is a "public health clinic."
Public health clinics generally are staffed by nurses and provide services limited to family planning, preventive health services and communicable disease detection and management.
Community health centers are staffed with physicians and midlevel providers and offer comprehensive primary care medical for adults and children, including preventive services, diagnosis and management of acute and chronic diseases. Support services such as dental, pharmacy, behavioral health, laboratory testing and radiology are commonly available.
HealthFirst Bluegrass offers all these, and in the past two years there's been significant growth and expansion in the community, including:
■ Opening the first full-service satellite clinic at Regency Road in November 2012. The clinic has served 1,800 patients.
■ Doubling the number of school clinics to eight. More than 1,400 children have enrolled to receive medical services in the clinics. The school clinic HealthFirst nurse provides all the required health functions at no cost to the Fayette County Public Schools.
■ Expanding services provided at the school clinics to include dental services.
■ Providing inpatient care for newborns who do not have pediatricians at Baptist Health Lexington, caring for 1,800 babies in the past year. Baptist staff, neonatologists and local pediatricians have frequently acknowledged the high quality of care provided by HealthFirst pediatricians and the positive impact this service has had on local pediatricians and their practices.
■ Offering a Behavioral/Mental Health Program to assure access as services for uninsured and publically insured patients has decrease.
■ Offering family-planning services with Title X funding when these services were discontinued by the health department. Nearly 3,000 women received services during the first 12 months of the program.
■ Administering the federally funded Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening program beginning July 2012, operating it with $650,000 less than the health department used for the program.
It was reviewed and audited by the Kentucky Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program after the first year and HealthFirst was asked to continue administering the program.
■ Providing presumptive-eligibility screening for Medicaid for pregnant women when the health department discontinued this service. This assures pregnant women have access to prenatal care as early as possible, since early entry into prenatal care results in better outcomes for babies.
■ Received a $146,000 grant to assist in outreach and enrollment of those eligible for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
In addition to expanding services, HealthFirst Bluegrass has many indicators of improved quality:
■ In addition to the 14 medical quality measures required by HRSA, HealthFirst implemented quality measures for dental and pharmacy.
■ Received accreditation by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, which designates compliance with standards that advance and promote patient safety, quality and value for ambulatory health care.
■ The HealthFirst Vaccines for Children Program received the Gold Star Award (the highest award given) after a site visit and audit by the Kentucky Vaccines for Children Program.
■ Awarded a $55,000 federal grant to purchase software that will improve monitoring and tracking for cervical cancer screening, as well as other patient populations.
■ Received the Vanguard Award from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Kentucky Regional Extension Center for commitment to improved health care through meaningful use of electronic health records system.
■ Met requirements and submitted an application for Level Three Patient Centered Medical Home Recognition by the National Committee on Quality Assurance, the highest level awarded.
NCQA-recognized medical homes must demonstrate that systems and processes are in place to meet nationally recognized standards for delivering high-quality care and have a commitment to improving patient access, patient experience and continuous quality improvement.
■ Completed a Patient Satisfaction Survey utilized by 1,200 community health clinics across the United States. HealthFirst scored at or above national ratings in all areas that were analyzed by an external source.
The greatest asset has been the recruitment and retention of a highly qualified and dedicated staff of professionals, managers and team leaders and frontline support staff. It is the staff's hard work and dedication to the 17,000 patients served that has enabled HealthFirst to expand and improve services as a federally qualified community health center.
Hopefully, this will bring the HealthFirst staff the recognition and appreciation they deserve for providing quality care to all who need it, regardless of ability to pay.
At issue: Sept. 20 Herald-Leader article, "HealthFirst director, four board members resign; interim executive director named"