December 27, 2023

The Free Clinic Movement

“We are doing this because we were asked to, because it is the right thing to do, and because we can.”

Chief Executive Officer, Steph Willding, MPA, joined Turn on the Lights to discuss the free clinic movement, hosted by Don Berwick, MD, MPP, FRCP, and Kedar Mate, MD from Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

The conversation emphasized CommunityHealth’s ability to maintain its free business model despite changes in the insurance landscape, the more than 10% drop in no-show rates with the implementation of telehealth, and the high quality of care measures maintained even in expanding into three locations through microsites.

Steph focused on how “small impacts over time lead to large impacts” as free clinics like CommunityHealth “removed, not just reduced, the barriers to access by investing in historically disinvested and under-resourced communities, by going to those communities, by opening doors in those communities.”

She remarks that free and charitable centers “may not be a systemic change all at once, but we are making sure that we are filling in where there may be gaps in the health care safety net” as clinics like CommunityHealth have the adaptability to “rethink space and place for point of care to meet our patients where they are at.”

“At CommunityHealth and other free health centers, when an an uninsured patient walks through our doors, they are not considered unfunded because our business model is built to support the care for that person. That is often not the case anywhere else in the safety net. There is a financial burden when someone does not have a form of insurance, and until everyone has a form of insurance, free health centers serve an important role because the more people we provide care for, the less financial burden there is in the safety net.”

In note of Steph’s “great deal of passion, energy, and love for this work,” the hosts inquire upon the sustainability of free and charitable clinics, especially as crises continue to arise.

The hosts regard the 30 Years of Care CommunityHealth celebrates throughout 2023, and inquires upon the sustainability of free and charitable clinics as crises continue to arise both nationally and globally.

With the very “great deal of passion, energy, and love for this work” that the hosts note, Steph reprises her resilient optimism considering “in the last three years, we have seen many moments where health care was able to get past bureaucracy of the systems. One of my wishes for health care is that we don’t forget what we have done in the past three years that we can move quickly and swiftly to meet the needs of people.”

Tune into The Free Clinic Movement to learn more about we, “not only free and charitable health centers but, the whole ecosystem can allow that to remain in our thinking processes and our decision making.”