Dr. Stuart Chipkin, research professor of kinesiology in the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences, along with community partners at Caring Health Center (CHC) in Springfield, MA, recently won a two-year, $249,659 grant from the Commonwealth Corporation. The grant, titled “Increasing Workforce Skills: Use of Goal-Setting, Cultural Competency and Knowledge of Existing Resources to Promote and Pilot Shared Medical Appointments,” will train 30 staff members at CHC in techniques to support patients in adopting healthy lifestyles. The training will focus on three areas: cultural competency, a central and on-going area of focus at CHC where patients represent a globally diverse background; techniques for working with patients to set and meet health goals; and increasing awareness of resources available at the CHC Wellness Center.
These techniques will not only boost patient efforts to live healthier, but are also projected to lower CHC’s percentage of patients who miss appointments. These “no-shows” have a significant financial impact on community health centers like CHC.
“Most inner city clinics face high no-show rates and our goal is to see if we can decrease the no-show rate,” says Dr. Chipkin.
After the initial training sessions, Dr. Chipkin and his CHC colleagues will plan and implement a pilot project focused on shared medical appointments-in which multiple patients meet with healthcare providers in a group setting. The focus of this pilot will be Type 2 Diabetes patients, though the technique can be used for nearly all chronic health problems.
“By combining several appointments into a group visit, patients have longer overall time with a provider and benefit from the support and dynamics of a group discussion,” notes Dr. Chipkin.
Dr. Chipkin is working with Ms. Cristina Huebner Torres, vice president, and Ms. Sabina Dhakal, community programs coordinator/ethnographer, of the Caring Health Center on implementing the grant. Both have links to the UMass Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences; Ms. Huebner Torres is a current doctoral candidate in epidemiology and Ms. Dhakal is a 2014 alumna of the Master of Public Health (MPH) program.
“Staff training related to cultural competency, goal setting, and service utilization along with the development of group medical appointments are at the center of critical efforts at CHC to provide comprehensive and meaningful care to a very diverse patient population with complex health care needs,” says Ms. Huebner Torres.
“I have been working with Caring Health Center and Cristina Huebner Torres on several projects over the last few years. This grant arose out of a planning grant we were awarded last year to assess training needs of staff,” notes Dr. Chipkin.
“After a very successful planning grant, CHC is thrilled to be partnering with Dr. Chipkin and UMass Amherst in this initiative. Each of the aims of this grant are directly tied with initiatives that will help to develop staff capacity to improve systems and the delivery of quality care to our community at the health center,” adds Ms. Huebner Torres.