The Alliance of Chicago: 2009-2010

While an important characteristic of Community Health Centers (CHC) is their strong individual community identification and governance, they are subject to the same forces that have driven the development of large health care systems. Recognizing the opportunities for groups of safety net organizations who could choose to cooperate rather than compete, the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Bureau of Primary Health Care established the Integrated Service Networks Initiative in 1994. The Alliance of Chicago Community Health Services, L3C (Alliance) was founded, as a Health Center Controlled Network (HCCN), to realize this strategy. As a HCCN, the Alliance is entirely owned by the four not for profit Community Health Centers, and is governed by a Board of Managers comprising the four Executive Directors of the centers.

The mission of the Alliance is to share resources and integrate services in order to more efficiently and effectively deliver accessible quality health care to the communities we serve.

The Alliance’s strategic vision is to continue promoting the thoughtful use of Health Information Technology (HIT) in the Safety Net to promote access, improve quality, and efficiency. In keeping with a focus as a shared set of resources promoting use of HIT enabled Quality Improvement to support Safety Net Health Centers, the Alliance strategic plan identifies 4 Strategic Pillars: Hosted EHRS and support of its User Community, Health Information Technology Innovation, Research and Data Use, and Technical Assistance, Education and Consultation.

With generous Program Related Investments (PRI) from the Washington Square Health Foundation the Alliance is able to better serve the members of its growing network of CHCs that now represent 32 health centers with over 100 service delivery sites in 11 states. All member CHCs are Safety Net Providers who serve a diverse, underserved set of populations, including rural, urban, uninsured, poor, minority, non-English speaking, elderly and homeless.

As the Alliance network members grew so did the Alliance staff. One PRI addressed the needs of the growing Alliance staff and provided an environment better suited to serving the Alliance network members. In addition to more space these resources provided, for the first time, dedicated meeting and videoconference space, and semi-private space for training and technical assistance calls with CHCs.

A second PRI supported the improvement of the technological environment for the HIT. These resources were used to purchase servers and server racks, hard drives and flash cards and server switches. These purchases doubled the Alliance’s virtual storage capacity to accommodate the growing needs of existing network members and the ability to add new CHCs to the network.