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Family HealthCare Network's Future
CEO Foster retiring; replacement named
Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part look at Family HealthCare Network and changes planned over the next 12 months. Monday’s story will look at specific changes for the Porterville and Terra Bella areas.
If the onset of the Affordable Health Care Act is not enough change, Family HealthCare Network is undergoing several other significant changes next year, the foremost being the retirement of longtime Chief Executive Officer Harry Foster.
Foster, who has led FHCN for 30 years, is retiring in April and already the FHCN board of directors has selected Kerry Hydash as his successor.
Family HealthCare Network, a private, nonprofit, community-based organization established in Porterville in 1976, has grown to be one of the largest community health centers in the nation. It has 14 locations in two counties, 12 of which are clinical sites.
Hydash, who already has the title of associate president and CEO, has been with FHCN for four years. She was born and raised in Visalia and has a masters in public administration and bachelor degrees in economics and accounting.
She was a selected from a group of six that went through the selection process that began three years ago.
“It was a very rigourous process,” said Foster. “The board really feels good about the selection.”
Hydash is ready for the challenge.
“I feel good about what I’ve learned,” she said.
She began with FHCN as vice president of human resources.
Foster has overseen most of the growth of the center as it added new clinics, including the latest in Farmersville.
Foster will leave at possibly the biggest time of change in health care ever. The Affordable Health Care Act goes into full effect in 2014 and already FHCN is adjusting.
“We’re building a lot of stuff, not just buildings. We’re building programs to prepare for Affordable Health Care Act,” said Foster during a lengthy interview this week.
He said the AHCA will mean a lot more people will be covered, and how the government pays for service will also change. Right now, he estimated, about 30 percent of the patients served by FHCN are uninsured.
“All adults who are documented will be covered. That’s a lot of people,” said Foster.
However, not all of those will get insurance. Undocumented residents are not allowed to apply, said Foster.
What Foster sees is a rise in the number of patients his clinics serve, and currently they serve 154,600 active patients. The 12 clinics had more than 565,000 visits last year.
“I think we’ll take care of a lot more patients, but do it in a different manner,” he said.
As part of the transformation, FHCN is moving more toward offering comprehensive health care.
FHCN has just received recognition from the National Committee on Quality Assurance as a Level Three Patient Centered Health Home, the only clinic in California to be so designated.
The designation, based upon FHCN’s policies, procedures and practices, is the highest recognition level awarded by NCQA, one only a handful of community health centers across the nation have attained.
In 2011, FHCN was selected to participate in the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Patient-Centered Medical/Health Home Initiative, established to support and encourage community health centers to gain recognition under the medical home program offered in partnership with NCQA. A division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HRSA believes the PCM/HH Initiative will allow health centers to promote quality improvement and demonstrate their leadership as providers of high-quality care.
To earn the designaton, FHCN employees spent 14 months reviewing and improving systems and compiling data required for FHCN’s NCQA submission. That work focused on improving FHCN systems to address access, communications, care coordination, tracking and performance improvement.
“NCQA recognition means that Family HealthCare Network is now held to a higher standard of compliance,” said Foster in a press release. “It’s our goal to deliver quality health care to all members of our communities in a way that’s cost-efficient, provides superior access and better clinical outcomes and engages the patient as proactive partners in their health care.”
He said FHCN is moving to become a Patient Centered Health Home with “a team-oriented approach to delivering health care.” He said one way they will achieve that is with a Navigation Center where people can call for minor health care issues and possibly be taken care of without having to go see a doctor.
“They’ll [patient advocates or case workers] work as a team with a doctor,” he said. “It is going to allow them [patients] to take better care of themselves.”
Director of Business Development Marisol A. de la Vega Cardoso said the Navigation Center, which is similar to the clinic’s call center, will allow patients to call in for issues such as a refill for a prescription.
“There will be trained individuals who can provide information to you,” she noted.
Added Hydash, “The Navigation Center takes it a step further. They’re reaching out to the patient.”
She explained that those at the Center will monitor patients and contact them if necessary, such as noticing a prescription has run out.
Foster said the call center employs 45 people today and most are being trained to be medical assistants who will work with a doctor to help manage a patient’s care, including preventive care. The call center is located in Porterville.
“It results in a less expensive way of providing care,” he said. “With this model we envision the day when doctors spend one to two hours a day in front of a computer.”
As to preventative care, Foster said, “We’ll have a gamut of people who can give you information to help you to take better care of yourself.”
FHCN is designated as a Federally Qualified Health Center. In 1997, it became the first freestanding ambulatory care center in Tulare County to be accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.