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HHS Funds Facility Expansion to Boost Patient Access to Care

The Department of Health and Human Services will provide $260 in funding toward primary care facility improvements, ultimately boosting patient access to care.

By Sara Heath

- The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced a total of $260 million worth of funding toward the renovation of various primary care facilities, helping to improve care quality and patient access to care, according to a press release.

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These funds will benefit primary care facilities in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. By renovating these spaces, HHS hopes to modernize the care that is provided and boost patient access to quality healthcare. The agency also hopes these improvements will help boost the number of patients served.

“Health centers are cornerstones of the communities they serve,” said HHS’s Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell.  “Today’s awards will empower health centers to build more capacity and provide needed health care to hundreds of thousands of additional individuals and their families.”

This funding comes following a similar announcement in September of last year, during which HHS announced over $500 million toward boosting patient access to care through the construction of new care sites and facility improvements.

A total of $350 million was funneled toward helping more care facilities expand their scope of primary care to include medical, oral, behavioral, pharmacy, and vision care. The remaining $150 million went toward helping various facilities renovate their spaces to provide better, more advanced care to their patients.

All of these funds come from the Affordable Care Act, and were a part of a greater mission to help expand patient access to care. According to a public statement, the ACA has helped nearly 12 million individuals receive primary care, and through these improvements, HHS leaders hope that number grows.

“These awards will give 1.4 million more Americans across every state access to comprehensive, quality health care,” said Secretary Burwell. “ With these awards, health centers will be able to do things like increase their hours of operation, hire more behavioral health providers, add dental facilities,  better treat patients with opioid use disorders, and help people get coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace and make the journey from coverage to primary care.”

Patient access to care has been a noted topic across government health systems as of late. Just last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published reports on inadequacies at the Indian Health System and Department of Defense. Between longer wait times and lack of caregivers, both agencies have reportedly been falling short in providing adequate care to their respective populations.

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) has also been struggling with patient access to care, but has lately been seeing more improvements. Earlier last month, VA announced some of its progress in improving patient access to care via the MyVA program.

MyVA, which serves as a call to action across the agency, helps encourage providers to be more proactive in expanding their care to serve their patients in a timely manner. The initiative also calls for VA providers to boost patient and provider experiences, improve internal support services, establish a culture of continuous improvement, and expand strategic partnerships.

“MyVA is our framework for modernizing our culture, processes, and capabilities – combining functions, simplifying operations, providing Veterans a world-class, customer-focused, Veteran-centered enterprise,” VA’s Secretary Robert A. McDonald explained to VA’s Commission on Care.

Through these various agency efforts to expand patient access to care, the healthcare industry is moving in the right direction to boosting patient engagement. Getting the patient through the door is the first step to engaging them in their health, and ultimately, improving their overall health.

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