September 11th, 2018
By Carey Rothschild
Director, Community Health Strategy & Policy, SRHS
Since AccessHealth Spartanburg opened its doors in 2010, we have helped connect nearly 9,000 people to primary health care, specialist care, behavioral health care, prescription assistance, and a mix of other health and social services. Helping thousands of Spartanburg County residents gain access to essential services and improve their lives — while driving down emergency department utilization for non-emergent health care needs — is how AccessHealth Spartanburg is helping to build stronger families and a stronger community.
Our impact has been recognized by leading national health nonprofits like The Duke Endowment, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Center for Health Care Strategies, and America’s Essential Hospitals. While the importance of connecting low-income uninsured people to the primary and specialty health care they need cannot be overstated, those organizations have recognized that our impact goes well beyond that. So what makes AccessHealth Spartanburg different? What accounts for our success in not only helping people get treatment for current health care needs, but in helping them become healthier, more stable, and more self-sufficient for the long haul?
In many ways, AHS has been a pioneering organization. And while there are many factors that make an impact, I think our focus on being care coordinators and care navigators makes the biggest difference. Care coordination and navigation is our “secret sauce.”
AccessHealth Spartanburg works with our clients to identify not only what their health care needs are, but what their barriers to care are. Think of it this way: instead of only helping a client with heart disease get an appointment with a physician, we help determine if they have transportation issues that could affect their ability to make it to their appointments, and then discover if they also need to be enrolled in a smoking-cessation program. Our case managers even accompany some clients to their medical appointments! We also work with our clients to improve their diets through nutrition education, and enroll them in a program that provides prescription medication assistance. On a case-by-case basis, we determine if our clients need help finding housing, or qualify for SNAP, or need help jump-starting a job search, and then connect them to the appropriate local organizations or agencies.
In short, we understand that health and health outcomes are not isolated, but are the result of a combination of factors. Getting regular care from a doctor to treat a medical condition is essential — but at AccessHealth Spartanburg, we believe strongly that addressing the circumstances and barriers that led to the medical condition in the first place is also essential.
Doing that can be complicated and confusing for anyone. Now imagine being uninsured and working two jobs to keep enough food on the table for your family and trying to figure all this out. That’s where we come in — we help our clients navigate this web, and then coordinate their care based on their unique situations, barriers, and needs.
It’s a different approach, and it requires people who are trained to look at the complete picture. It requires really getting to know each client, spending time with them, treating them with dignity, and earning their trust. We have a team full of those kind of people at AccessHealth Spartanburg. Some are registered nurses, while others have backgrounds in social work or case management or medical office management.
But we all do our part to help coordinate care for our clients. And it’s making a big difference in the lives of thousands of our fellow Spartanburg County residents.