CommunityHealth: 2021-2022

CommunityHealth’s commitment to providing patient-centered care began when they first opened their doors 30 years ago. Even as the free health clinic has navigated organizational growth, the global pandemic, and myriad changes to the health care landscape over the last three decades, CommunityHealth always prioritized patient feedback.

In addition to the patient satisfaction surveys, CommunityHealth wanted to create a platform for patient voices to be heard in a more active, ongoing way. In 2021, they established the Patient Advisory Council as a way to hear directly from the communities served.

The CommunityHealth Patient Advisory Council met for the first time in April 2021. In addition to health education staff members, who lead each Council meeting, the Council initially consisted of six patients, all of whom are routinely seen by volunteer physicians at CommunityHealth for both primary and specialty care. Recognizing the importance of hearing from a variety of perspectives, CommunityHealth aims to maintain representation on the council from varying ages, genders, and preferred languages – as well as both long-standing and newer patients. Council members serve for one year, meeting quarterly at the Lederman Family Health Center in West Town. In preparation for each meeting, staff members and volunteers have the opportunity to submit questions or topics to be discussed. Anyone with a vested interest in CommunityHealth is welcome to attend, but at council meetings, patients have the floor.

While the Patient Advisory Council provides invaluable feedback on all of CommunityHealth’s programs, their input has been particularly helpful in the improvement of outreach efforts. According to research by Heartland Alliance, around 300,000 residents of Chicago report a lack of insurance.

CommunityHealth has begun to formalize and increase outreach strategies to make sure those uninsured residents know that quality health care is within reach.

When COVID-19 concerns put many outreach opportunities on pause, the Patient Advisory Council brainstormed a creative way to seek new patients: the Refer-a-Friend incentive program (pictured below). Patients who refer friends and relatives to CommunityHealth are entered in a raffle for a grocery gift card.

Over the spring and summer of 2022, CommunityHealth also participated in an abundance of health fairs and other community events (pictured). This year, CommunityHealth launched the Community Health Workers (CHWs) Program, funded by multiple program-specific grants. CHWs, also known as Promotores de Salud, are frontline public health workers who engage closely with the community they serve. Often a trusted member or local leader within that community, a CHW has a unique capability to be a reliable liaison between community and organization, increasing health knowledge and self-sufficiency.

Through these CHWs, patients have a direct line of communication to the organization providing them resources. Thus, a CHW helps improve not only accessibility of service, but also quality of service. When CHWs communicate feedback from patients to CommunityHealth, the clinic is able to better adapt services to the needs of the patient. These team members empower communities, giving a voice and representation to vulnerable individuals, bridging the gap between service provider and service recipient.

CommunityHealth’s microsite partners, Onward Neighborhood House and Enlace Chicago, also help promote the clinic’s presence in the Belmont Cragin and Little Village neighborhoods, respectively. Not only do they refer their community members to clinic services, but they host public events at which CommunityHealth has attracted and registered new patients.

Over the course of the last year, CommunityHealth’s outreach team, guided by the Patient Advisory Council, registered more than 800 new patients, All of these individualswill now have access to comprehensive, personalized, high-quality health care.