Post courtesy of Jason Baisden, Executive Director, North Carolina Association of Free Clinics
In North Carolina and throughout the United States, free medical clinics often have to fight the false perception that the quality of care they provide is somehow sub-standard. As the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for,” and many believe that since the care is provided for free, it must be of a lower quality than the care provided to paying consumers.
North Carolina’s free clinics are not only shattering that perception, they are also demonstrating that the care they provide is on par with the care provided by the private sector, particularly in helping to stabilize the health of individuals with chronic conditions
In 2009, North Carolina’s free clinics embarked upon an initiative to prove that many North Carolinians who receive their care from a free clinic have health outcomes rivaling those receiving care through private providers.
In 2010, North Carolina free clinics directly provided $162,000,000+ in free health care services to 86,893 uninsured and underinsured patients, totaling more than 205,000 patient encounters. These services were made possible through the efforts of 9,600+ volunteer health care professionals and other community volunteers donating close to 400,000 hours of service.
North Carolina’s free clinics also arranged for $20,400,000+ of free health care services provided by other health care entities within local communities. Free clinics provide outstanding value for the contributions they receive. A $282 contribution will, on average, sponsor a patient for an entire year at a free clinic.
In 2010, North Carolina’s free clinics reported that:
- 71% of free clinic hypertensive patients achieved Blood Pressure Control of <140/90 compared to: Commercial Insurance (HMO 63.4%, PPO 56.7%), Medicare (HMO 61.9%, PPO 55.7%), Medicaid (HMO 55.6%)
BP Control of <140/90 is the recommended goal (Joint National Committee (JNC 7) Guidelines on the Prevention, Detection and Treatment of High Blood Pressure). HMO = Health Maintenance Organization, PPO = Preferred Provider Organization
- 44% of free clinic diabetic patients achieved an A1C level < 7 % compared to: Commercial Insurance (HMO 42.5%, PPO 28.2%), Medicare (HMO N/A, PPO N/A), Medicaid (HMO 34.7%)
Lowering A1C to below or around 7% has been shown to reduce microvascular and neuropathic complications of diabetes and, if implemented soon after the diagnosis of diabetes, is associated with long-term reduction in macrovascular disease. Therefore, a reasonable A1C goal for many nonpregnant adults is <7%. (American Diabetes Association Guidelines)
- 62% of surveyed patients indicated a decrease in emergency room utilization since becoming a patient at the free clinic
- 58% of surveyed patients indicated a decrease in hospital admissions, and
- 77% of surveyed patients feel their health has improved since becoming a patient at the free clinic
North Carolina’s free clinics are able to demonstrate this level of value and statewide impact because they remain committed to patient-centered medical care. And they are altering perceptions by providing tremendous value through compassionate service.
Check out www.ncfreeclinics.org to learn more and to find the free clinic nearest you. Whether you need health care services or are able to volunteer your time, free clinics are an important part of local communities throughout North Carolina and we invite you to get involved.
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