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Extending care navigation with the help of VCOM students

Extending care navigation with the help of VCOM students

March 20th, 2019

Since opening its doors in 2010, AccessHealth Spartanburg has worked to develop programs and partnerships that increase the capacity of the community to serve uninsured, low-income adults and to better manage complex medical conditions.

One of AccessHealth’s most important relationships is with the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Carolinas campus, located in the city of Spartanburg’s Northside community. AHS and VCOM are currently in the second year of a partnership that extends AccessHealth Spartanburg’s case management capacity by pairing an experienced case manager from AHS with a team of three second-year medical students.


The medical students are not allowed to make treatment recommendations. But after an initial meeting with an AHS client and care navigator, the students are able to act as an extension of the care navigator and provide support to the client. AHS chooses clients who have particularly complex cases and would therefore most benefit from the additional support.

“When we consider partnerships, they must provide a benefit to three parties,” said Carey Rothschild, Director of Community Health Policy and Strategy for Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System and the former director of AccessHealth Spartanburg. “It has to benefit AHS, the client or patient, and the organization we are partnering with.”

In this partnership, the client or patient benefits from the added support and extention of care navigation beyond AccessHealth Spartanburg’s normal Monday-Friday hours of 8:30 a.m to 5 p.m. The VCOM students are able to be touchpoints beyond those hours. AHS benefits from the extension of care navigation hours and client support services without adding staff.

And VCOM benefits by having its students exposed to complex cases and learning about the social determinants of health and barriers to care while satisfying at least a portion of their requirement to work in the community.

“It is great experience and information for these students to learn about the social determinants of health and the factors, especially factors for the underserved, that play a role in their health,” Rothschild said. “These students are able to get a better picture of these factors of health before they’re actual doctors one day.”

After the initial meeting, the students work with the AHS clients through phone calls and in-person meetings, and help connect the clients to resources the same way AHS care navigators do. The first year of the partnership proved to be so successful, AHS and VCOM agreed to extend it and a second cohort of students recently started meeting AHS clients and helping to coordinate their care.

“One of the most important lessons we have learned is that improving community health and helping people manage their complex health cases is a team sport,” AHS Director Summer Tebalt said. “No one organization can do it all, and yet there are many resources available. Finding ways to collaborate and combine resources so that we extend and enhance services versus duplicating them is incredibly important. This partnership with VCOM Is a great example of that.”

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