By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
International Community Health Services (ICHS) announced last month that it was among 1,352 community health centers in the country selected for $125 million in federal awards from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
ICHS was also awarded the National Quality Leader and best overall clinical performance as Health Center Quality Leader distinctions.
“Being a quality leader means that ICHS patients are more likely to achieve desired health outcomes,” said Dr. Asqual Getaneh, ICHS medical director.
“This points to the success our clinics are achieving across the life span from healthy pregnancies, well child care, and management of chronic conditions like diabetes. This grant will further ICHS’ efforts to widen access to high quality, affordable care among underserved communities and bring better health to greater numbers of the state’s residents.”
Getaneh explained that HRSA looked at several quality measures in the delivery of care, for example, how well the organization is taking care of diabetic individuals with hypertension, screening individuals for various cancers, and other health check-ups.
“In all of the measures they looked at, we rise above the pack in our peers in the number of people that we screen for cancer and the number of people that receive care,” she said.
HRSA’s Quality Improvement grant awards promote continued improvements in expanding access to comprehensive care, improving care quality and outcomes, increasing comprehensive care delivery in a cost-effective way, addressing health disparities, advancing the use of health information technology, and delivering patient-centered care. ICHS’ results and standards in seven out of eight categories led to a grant award of $249,174.
Getaneh said the award is the result of many individuals who work on teams at ICHS, to work towards the organization’s mission — to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate health and wellness services and promotes health equity for all.
There are about 1,400 community health centers in the United States and ICHS and the Family Health Centers were the only two community health centers in Washington state that have been recognized as National Quality Leaders.
Getaneh joined ICHS in June 2018. She said she was impressed by ICHS’ mission after meeting the chief medical officer and assistant medical director at a conference. She thought it would be a great opportunity to collaborate with them to deliver high quality care to vulnerable populations. Prior to ICHS, Getaneh worked at a large community health center system called Unity Health Care in Washington, D.C.
“ICHS is very proud of this recognition as a national quality leader, also in any landscape in which primary care healthcare is being provided, hospital or clinical setting, our current achievement surpasses many of our peers in that overall healthcare landscape as well,” Getaneh said.
“These awards are based on overall patient health data as a result of our care,” ICHS CEO Teresita Batayola said. “We are proud of this record of achievement. ICHS is an example of the exceptional value our nation’s system of community health centers routinely deliver, providing comprehensive care at significantly lower cost to millions of Americans.
“What this award means is that we will be able to provide the population that we serve even better access, care coordination and in addition to the population we are currently taking care of, we as an organization, are responding to the current homelessness crisis in Seattle,” Getaneh said.
ICHS has partner organizations, such as ACRS and other community-based organizations that it collaborates with, in addressing the concerns of the homeless population. Getaneh said, “When we deliver care, we also measure our core determinants of health and we partner with organizations to also provide individuals with other services. We don’t just treat diabetes in a vacuum — we deliver care in the context of the individual’s social economic situation and find organizations that could potentially meet the needs that they have.”
ICHS serves over 30,000 multilingual patients across four clinical sites.
Getaneh said that ICHS has embarked on moving towards population health management.
“Instead of being reactive, we will proactively look at the patient population and determine whether or not they are due for a particular type of healthcare. Depending on medical conditions, social context and so on, that’s where we will be moving forward, this ensures that no one falls through the crack, ensures individuals will receive their preventative care, as well as treatment of their chronic medical conditions,” she said.
Since its 1973 opening, ICHS has grown to employ more than 500 people and serve nearly 31,000 patients at nine clinic locations in 2017. Health services include primary medical, vision, and dental care, as well as behavioral health and pharmacy services.
As for the future, Getaneh said that ICHS has received requests to expand services in other neighborhoods in the Seattle metro area, and the board and executive team are currently considering those requests.
Nina Huang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.