December 16, 2021
‘Voice of the Community’ key component of systems planning initiative; community survey available now
(Austin) – Central Health is leading an initiative to create a high-functioning, patient- and equity-focused health care system that will improve the health of people living in Travis County – particularly those who are uninsured or underinsured.
Created in 2004 by Travis County voters, Central Health is the local public entity responsible for providing or funding health care for residents with low income – about one in nine people living in our community. Central Health envisions a seamlessly connected health care system that doesn’t require workarounds or force patients to “connect the dots” regarding their care, their health, and their well-being.
“We want to give every person in our community, regardless of where they live, where they’re from, or how much money they earn, an opportunity to live their best lives,” said Central Health President & CEO Mike Geeslin. “Working closely with the community, our patients and our partners, we’re developing a road map for the future of health care in Travis County. This is one of the most significant initiatives in Central Health’s 17-year history.”
The initiative – now in its third phase – is part of Central Health’s ongoing work to improve patients’ health equity by addressing disparities and removing barriers that limit access to quality care.
The service delivery plan will be based upon the needs of Central Health’s current and future patient population, and a community-wide analysis of existing providers and services, as well as gaps in care. All of these issues must be addressed to create a high-functioning health care system.
Building upon Central Health’s 2020 Demographic Report, available at www.centralhealth.net/our-work/2020-demographic-report/, the needs assessment identifies specific areas of the county with serious needs. For example, 74%of Travis County residents with earnings below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) live within one mile of Interstate 35. In comparison, 18% of low-income residents reside in East Travis County and 8% in West Travis County. In 2021, a family of four living at or below 200% of the FPL made less than $4,417 a month.
Voice of the Community
With a $600,000 grant from the Episcopal Health Foundation, Central Health hired consultancy firms Guidehouse and K-Strategies to support staff in conducting a needs assessment, community engagement, and development of a multi-year strategic plan.
In October, Central Health launched ‘Voice of the Community’ – the community feedback-gathering component of the initiative. With the help of the K-Strategies consulting team, Central Health hosted community meals and focus groups, conducted interviews with local health care advocacy groups, patients and potential patients, and convened listening sessions with partners and institutions. The research participants identified recurring themes regarding barriers to care:
- Transportation to and from medical appointments;
- Inconsistency in patient services and how patients are treated before, during and after receiving care;
- The complexities of scheduling appointments and onsite wait times to receive care;
- Health education challenges, including low awareness of health information services and entities providing care;
- Affordability of insurance and/or out-of-pocket health care costs;
- Miscommunication and misunderstanding between providers and patients;
- The need to overcome language barriers by adapting to multi-ethnic communities;
- The importance of community partnerships to connect patients to health care services.
“We want to ensure every voice, perspective and need is captured as we create a vision for the future of health care in Travis County,” K-Strategies Vice President Wil Murphy said.
In January 2022, Central Health will release a community engagement report with data and insights from the ongoing research. Guidehouse and Central Health staff will then present the Service Delivery Strategic Plan to the Central Health Board of Managers for review and approval in early 2022.
Individuals interested in providing their input can visit the Central Health website at participate.centralhealth.net to complete a survey and learn more about how to get involved.