Strengthening Partnerships with FQHCs During COVID-19

While COVID-19 disrupted health care at all levels, it significantly impacted Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). Between a reduction in revenue, a shift in utilization and changes in how patients sought and received care, these centers were forced to find new ways to address patient needs. As we partner with many FQHCs, UnitedHealthcare Community & State set out to find a way to help these centers adapt to new community care needs.

Transformation Pathways funding helps FQHCs serve targeted populations

The Transformation Pathways initiative was informed by conversations with the UnitedHealthcare Community & State FQHC National Advisory Board, which was developed in 2010 to help encourage communication and collaboration with health centers. Upon receiving their feedback and hearing their greatest needs, the Transformation Pathways initiative emerged to help fund timely actions to address the challenges FQHCs were facing.

The initiative deployed investment dollars to help build FQHC capacity during the public health emergency. We targeted more than 300 of our partnering FQHCs across the nation and presented them with focused options for responding to the pandemic. By allowing FQHCs to choose the pathway that best fit the needs of their local communities, these funds were able to make the most impact for the specific populations they serve. Overall, the fund deployed more than $20 million that aligned with the specific needs of these FQHCs.

Pathway funds help Florida FQHC transform operations

During a time when flu season, hurricane season, a public health emergency and back-to-school season collectively introduced new challenges, Community Health Centers, Inc. in Florida was quick to participate in the Transformation Pathways initiative. The FQHC — which has 15 locations and 5 administrative sites spanning two counties and serves more than 68,000 individuals — pursued the telemedicine pathway to create a more robust system for providing virtual care to patients.

Prior to engaging in the Transformation Pathways initiative, the FQHC had only completed one telemedicine visit, as they lacked sufficient funding to expand their virtual capabilities. But by the end of July, they had completed more than 5,000 telemedicine visits. This new method of providing care also created a new opportunity for providers to remotely prescribe and refill medications and mail prescriptions to patients’ homes. Through the funding, the FQHC also completed more than 3,000 drive-thru COVID-19 tests. These new care channels not only effectively served their patients, but also introduced cost-effective alternatives that dramatically supported their operations and met the needs of the communities they serve.

Transformation will continue into the future

Traditional value-based payment models have not always been structured to be mutually beneficial between health plans and FQHCs. As we collectively evolve our approach to care in our new normal, UnitedHealthcare Community & State will be continually evaluating capacity, and building opportunities and additional funding models to support our ongoing commitment to these partnerships. We will also continue to look to the FQHC National Advisory Board for collaboration on new programs and initiatives and to determine emerging needs in the communities that  FQHCs serve.

By working together, we can better meet the needs of the people and communities we both serve.

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