Neighborhood Health Center expands despite COVID-19 challenges

While at a glance it would seem 2020 was a year of simple survival for Neighborhood Health Center (NHC), a look back proves much was still accomplished despite the ongoing and unprecedented challenges of COVID-19.

Carrie Miles, CEO, said while COVID-19 certainly affected her staff and how patient care was handled, 2020 was still a year in which:

  • The patients served almost doubled from 2,360 to 4,157 with the addition of a second Union County location in late 2019
  • The number of patient visits doubled from 2019
  • Title X services were started
  • Remote patient monitoring program was implemented
  • Spanish translation program was launched
  • And virtual visit capability was launched sooner than expected to handle the pandemic

“It was a big year. We essentially doubled everything,” Miles said. “We were able to serve nearly twice as many patients, had more than twice the patient visits over 2019. We added Title X services, which means we are able to provide birth control, sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, and pregnancy testing regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.”

Another service that COVID-19 helped expedite is remote patient monitoring, with 62 remote units in patients’ homes as of January. This service was not available in 2019 and was made possible by a FCC COVID Telemedicine Grant. She said the monitoring service helps keep our highest risk patient’s conditions in better control by catching problems early and reducing the risk of having complications or hospitalizations.

She said another great addition, funded with the help of a grant from Wayne County Foundation, is a Spanish interpreter service. The service using a certified medical translator assisted more than 80 Latino patients.  “We knew from our 2019 data that there was a great need, and we are thrilled with how well this has taken off despite a global pandemic.”

The NHC providers adapted quickly to the virtual visit and telemedicine platforms that became a necessity because of COVID. “We really take pride in that personal connection with our patients. Trying to make those connections virtually was a challenge. But our teams quickly rose to that challenge and have maintained our high patient satisfaction standards.  Our staff has done whatever it takes to ensure our patients are cared for throughout this entire pandemic.  They are the true heroes in all this.”

Another improvement for patients was expanded access to help with insurance coverage and options. A Claim Aid representative now works full-time between the two locations and assisted 451 patients with obtaining life changing insurance coverage.  “We saw the demand for this rise dramatically with so many of our patients either out of work or living with reduced income,” Miles shared. 

More growth is expected this year, with two new behavioral health providers starting within the next two months. “One will work in Richmond and one in Union County,” Miles said. “We will continue to work with community partners to ensure we are not duplicating services. We will continue to do all we can to improve healthcare and healthcare access in the region we serve.”