Fostering Strategic Partnerships to Improve Quality in Maine Community Health Centers

One important duty to fulfill as a membership organization for Maine’s Community Health Centers (CHCs) is to form and maintain strategic partnerships with entities whose missions align with those of the Maine Primary Care Association (MPCA) and the CHCs. Achieving high quality in the primary care setting is an ongoing process that requires many stakeholders to be engaged. This engagement allows CHCs to move toward improved quality as a state.  The following paragraphs summarize a few examples of strategic partnerships MPCA has, and how they have impacted quality improvement.

1.       The American Cancer Society (ACS): MPCA, ACS and eight CHCs completed a two-year project (Dec 2013 – Nov 2015) focused on increasing colorectal cancer (CRC) screening rates through the use of Fecal Immunochemical Tests (FIT). The FIT kits are a less invasive, highly specific, lower cost screening modality that can be offered to patients who refuse a colonoscopy. Thus, addressing patient barriers while also increasing screening rates for the practice. Partnership on this project has led to a New England wide Learning Collaborative on CRC improvement that is modeled after our two-year project.

2.       The Maine Cancer Foundation (MCF): MPCA’s current work with MCF is focused on tobacco assessment and cessation rates in two CHCs. Both participating CHCs had high screening rates at the beginning of the project, but their cessation referral rates were struggling. One CHC has been able to increase their focus on behavioral health through this project by establishing protocols to refer tobacco users for brief interventions with their behavioral health staff. They have also started to work with the Center for Tobacco Independence to provide training for their clinicians.

3.       HealthInfoNet (HIN): Over the next year, MPCA is working with HIN to connect eight CHCs bi-directionally to the exchange. Currently, most CHCs can view the data available on HIN and this interface will allow them to also upload patient information – creating a fuller patient profile available to users across the state.

4.       i2i Systems: MPCA has partnered with i2i Systems very closely over the past three years to implement population health management software in eight CHCs through our Health Center Controlled Network (HCCN). The two software platforms i2i offers (Tracks and PopIQ) allow CHCs to increase their reporting capabilities beyond what is available through their EHR. Additionally, CHCs who are members of the HCCN are beginning to share population health level clinical quality data openly through PopIQ. This allows CHCs to improve as a network by supporting partnerships between low and high performers for particular measures.

These are just a few examples of the strategic partnerships MPCA has created in an effort to assist CHCs in reaching their clinical quality goals. They have allowed MPCA and the CHCs to participate in a number of meaningful population health interventions, implement useful software and collaborate to increase the flow of clinical data across the state.