Community Health Center Information Systems Assessment: Issues and Opportunities. Final Report. Health Center Level findings

10/30/2005

As mentioned above, in conducting case studies, we visited or spoke with a total of 38 centers in seven different locations across the United States.  Health centers visited differed substantially in scope of practice (number of patients and sites), management structure, and culture.  While some centers we visited were large operations that treat more than 200,000 patient encounters annually and have deployed state-of-the-art practice management and EHR applications, others were small-scale practices supporting a few part-time providers, fewer than 2,000 annual encounters, and basic computing resources. 

In this section we present project findings related to 1) health centers’ overall approach to IT, including planning and decision making strategies, resources dedicated by health centers to IT, and HIPAA compliance issues; 2) health centers’ information systems infrastructure, including hardware and software capacities as well as use of vendors; and 3) health centers’ primary uses of IT and health IT systems such as practice management and EHR applications.  Before describing findings in each of these areas, in the bullets below we provide some key background information related to illustrate the differences among 38 health centers that were consulted as part of this project.

  • Number of Health Center Sites. 23 of the 38 health centers we visited had multiple sites. 20 centers had between two and eight sites, while three centers had nine or more sites. 
  • Number of Annual Encounters. Half of the health centers we met with (19) have 50,000 or fewer annual patient encounters, with 12 of those 19 seeing fewer than 25,000 encounters per year. Five centers see between 50,000 and 100,000 annual encounters. Seven centers report more than 100,000 encounters per year of which three report more than 220,000 encounters annually.
  • Health IT Applications. 92 percent of health centers we visited (35 out of 38) use a practice management application. Nine centers use an EHR, while five others were either in the process of rolling out EHR for their sites or were piloting an EHR system. Three health centers use a dental EHR. 
  • Network Membership. 33 of the 38 centers we spoke with were members of their regional health center network. The other five had either opted to not join their local network when it formed or had withdrawn from their network when the investment ceased to be regarded as worthwhile.

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