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An Effective "One-Stop Shop" for Ohio's Medical Needs

PHOTO:  A new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine finds that clinic medical centers can provide even better care than private practices. Image by  Royalty-Free/Corbis
PHOTO: A new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine finds that clinic medical centers can provide even better care than private practices. Image by Royalty-Free/Corbis
August 8, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio - It's National Health Center Week, and Ohio's community health centers have something to celebrate.

CHCs treat patients despite their ability to pay or their insurance status - and new research says they do it just as well as private doctors' offices. The study from the Stanford University School of Medicine compared 18 types of health screenings and found CHCs performed on a par with private-practice counterparts in 13 of them - and better on the others.

Mark Bellisario, who heads Primary Health Solutions in Hamilton, says he isn't surprised by the results.

"I think what people need to realize about Community Health Centers is that we have extremely high-quality doctors. All of our physicians are board-certified and we have the variety of services to offer."

Whether it's a Medicaid patient, someone with insurance or without, Belissario says, the mission of community health centers is to meet the needs of all people in the community. In that way, he says, they really are a one-stop shop for every member of Ohio families.

"They're bringing their children in, but need a doctor for themselves and they haven't had the money to go to a private practice. Or they may be coming for dental services and realize they have high blood pressure, and so our dental office refers them over to the medical practice, so they can get help for that."

Belissario says they've added thousands of new patients in recent years. And with the Affordable Care Act, he expects to add even more who previously could not obtain health coverage. But he says they are ready to meet the need.

"Primary Health Solutions is working to become a patient-centered medical home, which is looking at the whole patient. And so, our delivery of services is through everything the patient needs, as opposed to one individual need."

Community health centers go beyond the traditional reach of medicine, with many offering other services such as dental or mental-health care. Some facilities include social services that address other contributors to poor health, from nutrition or housing problems to arranging job training. More than 160 CHC locations are spread throughout Ohio.

The study is online at stanford.edu.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH