Dr. Stephanie Diehlmann recently opened The Well Health Center in Cactus, TX, to deliver family medicine for acute and chronic medical conditions, as well as preventative care for men, women, and children. For people who are uninsured, underinsured, or have trouble making the trip to Amarillo (or elsewhere) to see a doctor, The Well Health Center is ready to be their medical home, open now and seeing patients on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. And it’s a wonderful case study for ECHO.
Stories like these are the most rewarding part of the work ECHO does is seeing new clinics open in communities that will be well-served by accessible healthcare.
Dr. Diehlmann’s story is a good example of the ECHO model in action, particularly around community service, faith-community support, staffing, and quality care initiatives.
The first step in our consulting process is an environmental scan. It’s important the teams aspiring to open a new charitable clinic understand the landscape – other clinics, traditional healthcare providers, potential partners and donors, and more – in the area they intend to serve. Dr. Diehlmann’s team did a wonderful job on their environmental scan and you can read more about their assessment of Cactus here. In short, the high rate of uninsured people (26%) in Moore County, lack of a free-standing medical facility in the immediate vicinity, lack of public transportation, and diverse population who migrate to Cactus to work at JBS Beef made it clear the community needed a charitable healthcare option.
The Well Health Center’s environmental scan was key to defining the clinic’s mission and better informing how they needed to deliver free and charitable healthcare to the people in Cactus, TX.
Faith Community Support
Many of the variables in our consulting model are based on the milestones achieved during the successful 30-year history of Church Health in Memphis, TN. My favorite part of the Church Health origin story is how a Methodist church, the Memphis Jewish Community, and a non-denominational evangelical church came together to provide founding support for Church Health and ensure its first year of operation.
In Cactus, TX, The Church of the Nazarene, through local churches and then Cactus Nazarene Ministry Center were crucial to The Well being able to open and deliver quality healthcare to area people in need. Through this relationship, the clinic has received financial support, crucial and substantial volunteer hours, and more. In fact, The Church of the Nazarene was at the center of recruiting Dr. Diehlmann to the project.
Because of the experience of Church Health, and again with projects like this one, ECHO’s process includes outreach to your faith community as support from the Church is crucial to the success of charitable clinics.
G. Scott Morris, MD, MDiv is the founder and Chief Executive Officer on Church Health. He saw 12 patients on day one in 1987 and is still seeing patients today. If a clinic project is going to be successful delivering high-quality healthcare to people in need, ECHO believes it must have a full-time provider on staff. Like Dr. Morris in Memphis or Dr. Diehlmann in Cactus.
A committed medical provider gives a new charitable clinic credibility in the community and capability in practice. Having the same doctor or nurse practitioner in place gives patients in need a continuum of care they won’t otherwise receive – and gives them a medical home.
Quality Care Initiatives
ECHO is discerning in the new charitable clinics to who we offer our no-cost consulting services. I like to say our services are no-cost, but it’s disingenuous to call them free. The root of that statement is our commitment to clinics that will deliver high-quality primary care. Among the ways we ensure that are a couple variables, one is a demand and the other is a guidance.
The demand is that the clinics we consult use and Electronic Medical Record. Despite effective use requirements from the Affordable Care Act, free and charitable clinics have a choice in the matter. The clinics we consult do not. Somewhat related to the previous point about having a full-time primary provider is Dr. Diehlmann embracing this philosophy. Because she has seen the value an EMR delivers to a medical practice and its patients, it was a foregone conclusion that her clinic would have one.
The guidance comes in the form of Church Health’s Model for Health Living. We are committed to delivering high-quality healthcare that treats the whole person, and that’s exactly the type of care Dr. Diehlmann intends to deliver to people in Cactus, TX.
There’s so much more than these four points to the story of The Well Health Center and its mission to deliver free and charitable healthcare to people in Cactus, TX. It’s a wonderful example of how the ECHO model can work to support the efforts of people delivering care to their community, and how that care should be delivered to communities and people in need.