Anne Beal, Susan E. Hernandez
A. Beal and S. Hernandez, "Patient Reports of the Quality of Care in Community Health Centers: The Importance of Having a Regular Provider," Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, May 2010 21(2):591–605.
Community health centers are an important source of health care for low-income, uninsured, and minority patients. This study assessed how patients at these clinics view the quality of care they receive, and also examined the importance of having a regular provider.
Using data from the Commonwealth Fund 2006 Health Care Quality Survey, the authors found that adults who use community health centers were much less likely to see a regular doctor when they needed care than adults who got their care at private doctors' offices. Health center patients were also less likely to report receiving a reminder to schedule a preventive care visit, have their cholesterol checked, or receive counseling about diet, exercise, and healthy weight. They were also less likely to report positive experiences with care. However, these differences in quality were eliminated when community health center patients had regular providers.
When community health center patients have regular doctors, they receive better care and are more likely to report positive care experiences. To ensure that those who use health centers have a regular doctor, policymakers should focus on supporting centers' abilities to recruit and retain primary care providers—beginning with the provision of competitive salaries, conclude the authors.