KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Two longtime medical institutions have joined forces in an effort to address health inequities in their inner city neighborhood while providing real-world experience to aspiring doctors.
Under an agreement announced this week, Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCUMB) will provide the equivalent of about 2.5 full-time physicians a week from its faculty to see patients at Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, a safety-net clinic.
Medical students will shadow the professors, said Dr. Marc Hahn, KCUMB chief executive. Upper classmen, he said, likely will perform some clinical functions.
“We believe two things,” he said. “One, it’s important exposure for our students, and two, it gives us the ability to better impact our community.”
The agreement takes effect Oct. 1. Neither the medical school nor Sam Rodgers would disclose financial terms of the agreement.
KCUMB said seven board-certified, primary care physicians from the school would work at the health center. Hahn said initial services would include family medicine and pediatrics, with neuromuscular medicine planned later.
Each physician at the health center generally handles about 4,200 patient visits a year, said Sam Rodgers Chief Executive Hilda Fuentes.
“It is an exceptionally wonderful opportunity for Sam Rodgers to increase its skills, increase its quality of care,” she said.
Through the partnership, the health center and its staff will have access to facilities at the medical school, such as its auditorium and medical library.
The medical school and the health center are less than a mile apart in the northeast part of the city. KCUMB dates back to 1916. Sam Rodgers was opened in 1967.
According to data from the Kansas City Health Department, northeast residents have the lowest life expectancy (71.9 years) among all the regions in the city. That’s nearly a decade shorter than the parts of the Northland that register the longest life expectancy (80.4 years).
The health department data also shows that, in some areas of the northeast, more than a third of the households live in poverty.
Sam Rodgers is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The designation qualifies clinics to receive federal grants and enhanced reimbursements to serve a safety-net population.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, as of 2011, there were approximately 1,100 FQHCs nationwide, including 13 in Kansas and 21 in Missouri.
One of the newest in the Kansas City-area is the Health Partnership Clinic in Johnson County, which became an FQHC a year ago.
Hahn said the agreement with the health center allows the medical school to re-establish a clinical presence in the northeast, which he said the school lost when it closed its teaching hospital in 1988.
“By giving this type of experience to our students it may be more likely that they choose a community health center for their practice once they graduate,” Hahn said.
He also said working at Sam Rodgers would expose students to a system poised to grow with changes initiated by federal health reform, including making it easier for individuals to afford health insurance.
Sam Rodgers has received federal funding to hire specialized staff, known as “navigators,” to help members of the community sign up for health insurance through the new marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act.
With that outreach, Fuentes said, workers also likely will find residents who are eligible for Medicaid but have not signed up.
She said the health center could see as many as 24,000 patients next year, which would be a 14 percent increase from last year.
In addition, Fuentes said, the health center would bring on an additional 6,800 patients by absorbing the operations of Cabot Westside Health & Dental Center, a clinic that is now part of Saint Luke’s Health System.
Fuentes said the two sides aim for a transfer agreement to be in place by Nov. 1. The parties announced in May they were working on a deal.
Medical personnel coming over, Fuentes said, would include two physicians, two dentists, and a nurse practitioner.
It has been federal policy for much of the past decade to make FQHCs a bigger part of the health care system, said Professor Robert Lee, director of the Master of Health Services Administration program at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
Even before health reform, he said, the economic stimulus bill of 2009 included funding for these health centers.
“In some respects,” Lee said, “the FQHCs were sort of ahead of the curve in the sense that they are going to provide a pretty full spectrum of outpatient services to their populations. Most private practices have not come close to that at all.”