Innovation Policy Principles & Priorities

Advocates for Community Health believes that community health centers are poised to lead the way in building a community-based continuum of care that can change how we deliver services to patients in need.

For community health centers, innovation is a day-to-day part of caring for their communities and often happens by necessity. Health centers care for underserved communities, often contending with a wide range of social determinants of health, which frequently equates to patients with complex needs and limited resources. Health centers have been stretching resources to care for the needs of their communities for more than fifty years. They provide comprehensive, culturally competent, responsive care to their patients each day. As our health care system continues to evolve and transform, health centers are ideally positioned to serve as the foundation from which to build. With a proven record of both innovation and agility to maximize resources, further investment and opportunities to pilot new solutions to address the needs of their patients and community can improve health outcomes and move us toward true health equity.

Serving nearly 30 million patients annually, we are ready to ambitiously pursue innovative solutions that improve the health outcomes of the communities we serve. Already our members exemplify innovation in population health, health information technology, behavioral health, emergency response, and specialty care. With the current pandemic, there is even greater need for investments in innovations that make our workforce more efficient, while maintaining a high quality of care.

In order to build a community-based continuum of care that can change how we deliver services underserved populations, we will need more sophisticated analytics, recognizing health outcomes and operational excellence, and tools that can drive innovation.

Our Innovation Principles

  • Innovation is constantly striving to improve care for patients at federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), in new and ground-breaking ways.
  • Innovation makes the care experience better for patients, providers, and families.
  • Innovation can make clinical care more patient-centric—from the process of scheduling appointments to accessing care via telehealth to receiving regular reminders of timely care.
  • Innovation can streamline a patient’s access to medicines, through mail order and central fill pharmacies.
  • Innovation in behavioral health care can mean new ways to heal, such as trauma-informed care co-located with trusted community services.
  • Innovation in value-based care has translated into FQHCS running successful models of Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), which provides comprehensive medical and social services to certain frail, elderly people (participants) still living in the community.
  • Innovation is transforming FQHCs into workforce training hubs for essential health care workers, including medical assistants, home health aides, and nurse practitioners.

Our Innovation Policy Priorities

Provide access to telehealth, remote patient monitoring and other digital tools.
Rationale: Many clinical care innovations, including those in behavioral health, derive from the ability to deliver care virtually.
Recommendation: Institute permanent, adequate reimbursement under Medicare and Medicaid for telehealth—including audio-only services, remote patient monitoring, and other tools that enhance patient care. Provide safe harbor from anti-kickback laws for health centers assisting patients with technology costs.

Eliminate policy barriers to federally qualified health centers delivering specialty care.
Rationale: FQHCs are patient-centered medical homes well beyond primary care, seeing patients through the lifespan. As culturally and linguistically adept health care providers, FQHCs must be able to grow and expand to the delivery of specialty care for their patients.
Recommendation: The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and federal payers should work with leading FQHCs to promote expansion into specialty care delivery.

Recognize and encourage patient-centered facility design.
Rationale: Leading health centers have invested in design that improves and facilitates the patient care experience.
Recommendation: Prioritize infrastructure investments through HRSA to incentivize facility design that improves patient experience.

Continue to develop and evaluate programs to improve health literacy.
Rationale: The most effective innovations are co-created with patients, which builds power and knowledge at both the individual and community level.
Recommendation: Support and recognize the most successful efforts to build and measure patient health literacy.

Create the Advocates for Community Health (ACH) Virtual Innovation Lab.
Rationale: ACH members are innovating on a daily basis, but lack the platform to share new ideas and disseminate best practices.
Recommendation: Establish a public-private partnership supporting an Innovation Lab hosted by ACH, which will identify commonalities across FQHCs regarding innovation and collaborate with HRSA to incentivize innovation and build out best practices.

Host semi-annual Advocates for Community Health Innovation Lab convenings.
Rationale: Not only could other FQHCs benefit from the learnings of fellow health centers, but other members of the health care sector can, and should, incorporate best practices to improve care for marginalized populations.
Recommendation: Host convening of leaders in our sector twice annually to share best practices and identify policy priorities that health center advocates can rally around.

Committed to community, with a visionary and innovative approach, our membership is leading the way in shaping the rapidly evolving health care landscape of the future. Learn more about our other policy priorities and our advocacy efforts.
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