Physicians Free Clinic
In 1991, the Community Shelter Board (CSB) requested the Columbus Health Department (CHD) to complete a study on the health care needs of the homeless. The CHD, with the assistance of Mount Carmel Health, surveyed executives and clients of shelters and prepared a report. This study included an inventory of health care services available to local shelters in 1991. The study discovered that East Central Community Organization Health Center (ECCO) was the primary health care provider for the homeless. Also providing care were the Open Shelter, Homeless Families Foundation and Mount Carmel Health Outreach. The report also noted major health care issues including access to health care, dental services, immunizations, early intervention and prevention screening services, health education, prescription medications and drug/alcohol treatment services.
In 1992, the CSB and the CHD met an Advisory Roundtable to address homeless health care issues. A work group was established and proposed a nursing case management model as an option to strengthen links between shelters and existing community health care providers.
In February 1993, the Health Care Advisory Committee met with representatives from the homeless shelters, CHD and Mount Carmel Health Outreach. At that time, a proposal came forth from the Academy of Medicine of Franklin County (now the Columbus Medical Association) to establish an evening walk-in, episodic care clinic in the downtown area for homeless and other medically indigent individuals. This effort was to increase accessibility and availability of health care services and to link persons to ongoing primary care providers. In addition, the inappropriate use of hospital emergency rooms would be reduced.
Voluntary Care Network
In 1997, a study was commissioned to focus community attention on the access problems of the uninsured and to assess the range of services available to uninsured persons. The study concluded that the capacity in Franklin County for both inpatient and outpatient services appeared adequate, but that providers operated in isolation from each other and did not effectively coordinate existing resources.
During the following year, another report looked at the barriers to health care for the uninsured; these barriers included not knowing where to go, inconvenient hours, transportation barriers, and the perception of the uninsured that they were stigmatized by health care professionals. Both reports concluded that although adequate resources existed, there was a need for a strong and cohesive health care delivery strategy in Franklin County and Columbus.
A community wide consortium called Access HealthColumbus was created to address the issues raised by both studies. The Columbus Medical Association and Foundation invested $1.5 million into Access HealthColumbus, while the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation invested $500,000 for the start up of this consortium. In addition to this funding, Access HealthColumbus was awarded a 3 year Federal Healthy Communities Access Project (HCAP) grant.
In 2003, Access HealthColumbus established the infrastructure to support a care coordination incubator, called the Voluntary Care Network. The goal of the care coordination incubator was to demonstrate the ability to incrementally build an organized voluntary care network to link low-income uninsured residents living on the Southside of Columbus with medical homes and improve access (reduce delays) to specialty care. A key milestone was accomplished in October when all four hospital systems in Franklin County agreed to collaborate with Access HealthColumbus. In return for their participation in the Voluntary Care Network, doctors obtained the benefits of a centralized scheduling and patient tracking system, a central staff that would coordinate primary and specialty referrals, interpreters and transportation services, and a system that assists patients with enrollment in public insurance programs and other social services.
In 2008, the Access HealthColumbus Board decided that it was time to integrate the Voluntary Care Network into the community and conducted a feasibility study to determine the best fit for this program in the community. The feasibility study findings indicated that The Physicians Free Clinic would be the best fit.
In 2009, the Voluntary Care Network was brought under the umbrella of the Physicians Free Clinic and the name of the organization was Physicians Free Clinic/Voluntary Care Network.
In recognition of the combined essence of core services and in an effort to allow for future programs and efficiencies to be created that would be a part of our mission, the organization changed its name to Physicians CareConnection. Physicians CareConnection is the umbrella organization that represent our core competencies.