We opened our first telehealth microsite at Onward Neighborhood House back in April. After about half a year of providing service in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood, let’s check in on how the microsite is doing!
The microsite was designed to bring health care even closer to our patients. Of course, the rapid development of telemedicine has really boosted the accessibility of health care, but what if a patient doesn’t have access to adequate technology? What if they don’t have a quality webcam or microphone? What if their internet connection is unstable? Or what if they rely on public spaces to access to the internet, such as the library? Even privacy is a privilege that many uninsured folks do not have. Though telemedicine is an important breakthrough, we wanted to do even more to help our patients get the care they need.
Furthermore, virtual appointments can’t replace medical services that require in-person interaction, such as blood tests or vaccinations. Sometimes we do really need to see patients in-person. After surveying the patient population, we realized that attending an appointment at the Lederman Family Health Center in West Town often means taking a day off of work and/or finding child care in order to commute an hour or more each way, in addition to the appointment time.
These barriers motivated the innovation of the microsite. Onward House’s location is much closer to home for many of CommunityHealth’s established patients, which means that they are able to come in and get their blood drawn or their vitals taken without major disruption to their day. They are also provided with state-of-the-art technology for virtual appointments with a primary care provider. CommunityHealth staff remain nearby to facilitate when issues arise (because we all know technology can be challenging to navigate). After 7 months of operation, it seems that the Onward House microsite has successfully addressed many of the problems that patients were previously facing, as evidenced by our incredibly low rate of no-show appointments (only 4% – compared to industry averages of 20-25% for safety net health care, including both in-person and telehealth).
Of course, the true measure of success depends on the patient experience. We surveyed 84 of the patients who visited CommunityHealth at Onward House so far, and the results are overwhelmingly positive:
Upon arrival, patients are greeted by Gloria Alvarez, our incredible Microsite and Lab Manager. Gloria enrolls new patients and communicates with every single person who walks into the microsite. Here’s what some of our patients have to say about her:
“Oh, Gloria will be there, okay. . .I love the care that Gloria gives when I am in her lab.”
“I only want my lab appointments with Gloria, please.”
Gloria is an integral part of the CommunityHealth team, and we are so grateful for the environment of care she has cultivated at Onward House.
As we continue to respond to our patients’ needs, we will continue to innovate.
Work has already begun towards opening another microsite! Big things are happening at CommunityHealth, and we appreciate the support of our donors and volunteers who make this innovation possible.