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Community Health Among the Best Health Centers in the US

This article appeared on VT Digger in September, 2022:

“Through all we experienced with covid, we were always improving quality, always,” said Andrea Wicher, Community Health’s Director of Quality and Population Health.

It isn’t surprising to Wicher that Community Health ranks among the top 20% of the Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in the US for the quality of clinical services it provides. An annual review by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) used data and information from the 2020-2021 year to qualify Community Health as a Health Center Quality Leader Silver Award winner. HRSA’s Quality Improvement Awards (QIA) recognize the highest performing health centers around the country and spotlight the health centers that have made significant quality improvement gains in the past year.

Community Health Director of Clinical Services Tracy Upton said Community Health saw an improvement in the following categories for 2021:

  • increased screenings for breast cancer, colorectal cancer, HIV and depression
  • dental sealant application
  • follow up education provided when body mass index (BMI) is identified as out of range
  • chronic disease management on statin therapy for cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes control management

As a result, Community Health was recognized specifically for these awards:

  • Health Center Quality Leader Silver Awardee for best overall clinical quality performance.
  • Access Enhancer Award recognizes health centers that increased the total number of patients served and the number of patients receiving comprehensive services. Community Health primary care includes medical, dental and behavioral health services.
  • Health Disparities Reducer Award recognizes health centers that meet or exceed benchmarks established for different racial/ethnic groups.
  • Patient-Centered Medical Home Recognition indicates that Community Health meets national standards for primary care that emphasize care coordination and ongoing quality improvement

“Our quality program focuses on patients at risk of chronic disease, focusing on education, patient outreach on determinants of health and health equity. They are the foundations of our quality plan,” said Wicher.

And, she said, it takes balance.  Balancing prevention and wellness is the key to Community Health’s plan to deliver the highest quality care to the community. “There is so much need after diagnosis that it makes it challenging to spend time on the prevention side,”Wicher said. “But, quality drives everything. It’s at the forefront of our decisions.”

Prevention and wellness are the keys to Community Health’s plan to deliver the highest quality care to the community. Annual wellness visits, pediatric development screenings, prediabetes risk assessments and quality incentive plans for the practices and service lines are part of the ongoing quality plan.

Each Community Health service line and practice select two quality metrics to spotlight. The metrics range from increasing the number of Annual Wellness Visits to diabetes A1c control, to identifying patients at risk for prediabetes, to providing information and education about hypertension or high blood pressure. There is also increased focus on collaboration between providers and their medical teams and the care management teams.

The prevention programs aim to reduce the volume of patients who receive a diagnosis for a chronic illness by using early identification of risk factors, screenings and patient education to encourage self-awareness and self-management for adults and families of at-risk kids.

In addition to the annual quality assessments, every three years HRSA completes an Operational Site Visit conducted to ensure federally funded health centers comply with the federal Health Center Program. “Areas reviewed and approved during our Operational Site Visit in 2021 included financial and clinical management, operations, monitoring and reporting, governance and quality improvement,” said Community Health CEO Mike Gardner.

“Our quality outcomes are part of an ongoing program to create clinical pathways for providers and patients to follow,” said Gardner. “The HRSA awards affirm our quality programs are working!”

Learn more about Community Health’s quality, care management and diabetes programs.

Community Health is Vermont’s largest Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), a network of primary care, pediatric, behavioral health, dental and pharmacy services with offices in Rutland, Brandon, Castleton, West Pawlet and Shoreham. Community Dental offices are located in Rutland and Shoreham; Community Kids Dental is in Rutland; Community Health Pediatrics is in Rutland and Behavioral Health services are available at all of our locations. Community Health Express Care Centers, open 7 days a week, are located at the Rutland and Castleton Community Health Centers. For more information about Community Health, check our website

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