The dramatic spread of the COVID-19 has greatly impacted how community health centers, hospitals, urgent care centers and other health care centers operate. Healthcare facilities nationwide have been forced to adapt quickly to the demands of the current pandemic exacerbated by a dwindling supply of masks, gowns and other protective equipment for its workers. The impact of the current crisis is especially challenging for health care centers in rural, underserved and uninsured communities. In these communities, care is provided by teams of dedicated healthcare professionals in community-based health centers. Keeping these centers open and fully operational is key in fighting the spread of the coronavirus.

Organizations like Health Choice Network, Inc. (HCN) are doing their part in supporting these health centers. HCN, a non-profit organization, serves community health centers by providing key business services utilizing state-of-the-art systems to improve the quality and access to care. “Our primary focus is to support our health centers, safety-net providers and the patients they serve” says Alejandro (Alex) Romillo, President and Chief Executive Officer at HCN. “The best way we can do that”, he adds, is by “doing what we do best: technology, data, logistics and group vendor leveraging.”
For health centers to effectively care and serve its patients, providers rely on IT systems to keep accurate health records, track medical information, and to safely transmit information to labs, pharmacies and physicians. To support this need, HCN has established a 24/7 support system to ensure accessibility around the clock.
“The HCN Board of Directors and their vision in creating this mission driven organization 26 years ago was for this exact period of time: to support and prepare our health centers.” adds Alex Romillo. “We can pivot quickly to house Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and provide crucial data reports to be utilized for both clinical and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) via all governing bodies.”
To help mitigate the challenges brought on by this unprecedented pandemic, Dr. Timothy Long, Chief Clinical Officer to both HCN and AllianceChicago (AC) affirms “we are dedicated to being a valuable resource to all our health centers”. In collaboration with AllianceChicago, HCN is providing weekly webinars as a means to share their workflow processes and experience. “Our webinars cover an array of topics intended to help and support our providers during this crisis”. The weekly HCN webinar series addresses subjects ranging from preparing communities for COVID-19, utilizing telehealth in targeted populations, managing homelessness, serving migrant and rural health populations and offers education and guidance for these health centers and providers. “One of the components of the webinars is to provide a forum to share clinical updates on COVID-19 diagnosis and treatments options. HCN has been able to develop clinical content within the electronic health record (EHR) to allow our providers clinical decision support tools and allow documentation for both COVID and non-COVID office visits.”, says Dr. Long. “Secondly, this forum brings clinical leadership together and allows our health centers to share promising practices to combat this COVID-19 pandemic.” Currently, HCN has over 1500 registrants sign up for the series.
“More importantly”, elaborates Dr. Long, “our clinical priority has been to help ensure that our health centers and frontline staff have the needed supplies necessary to see patients during this COVID period. As a result, we have leveraged our group vendors and made connections with PPE suppliers and national reference labs, allowing our health centers to set up COVID testing programs in these communities.”
To further serve its centers, HCN created a resource library that includes training and educational materials such as health center workflows, funding and small business information, and includes up-to-date information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and the World Health Organization (WHO) to name a few.
Considering the ongoing challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations like HCN must also adapt rapidly to the changes forced upon its centers and continuously look for creative ways to offer support. In response to the foreseeable next few months, Alex Romillo cautions that we will see a different healthcare delivery system. “Having now gone through this crisis, what healthy patient would ever sit in a waiting room for minutes / hours next to a potentially sick patient? There will be more remote monitoring, in-home care services, and audio and video health for specific populations with underlying health conditions.” The lessons learned will undoubtedly impact our current healthcare system and influence its evolution.