By Liz Abbott
By Liz Abbott
Chuck began his work with Thundermist as the chief information officer in 2008. Later that year, he assumed the role of executive director of Thundermist Health Center of Woonsocket. He was appointed by the Thundermist board of directors to serve as Interim CEO in June 2011 and later appointed as the permanent president/CEO in 2011.
Chuck also serves on the Board of Directors of Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Health Center Association and the Rhode Island Quality Institute.
PBN: What changes or impacts on Thundermist's health care delivery system do you expect to see as a result of the new federal health care law? Have you, in fact, already experienced any impacts?
JONES: The most tangible impact of the Affordable Care Act is Thundermist’s new health center in Wakefield. This new, 20,000-square-foot facility, will allow us to expand integrated medical, dental and behavioral health care services to thousands more patients. It is an example of the ACA’s recognition of the need to expand the primary care infrastructure in order to affordably meet the increasing demand for health care. We plan to move in by the end of 2014.
Moving forward, we expect to see thousands of our patients become eligible for either Medicaid or low-cost insurance. While we have been treating these patients for years, the ability to improve their care through the additional access insurance provides will enhance these patients lives, the lives of their families, and ultimately the well-being of our community.
PBN: What unique challenges does Rhode Island's aging population present to nonprofit community health centers such as Thundermist?
JONES: The frail and elderly face challenges including mobility, transportation, nutrition, mental health, and difficult transitions between the community, long term care facilities and hospitals. When care is not delivered in a way that meets the complex needs of these patients, or coordinated between the many caregivers or settings, not only are health outcomes sacrificed, but the costs of the care skyrockets. Our challenge is to continue developing the additional services and close-knit partnerships necessary to meet the needs of this expanding demographic.
PBN: According to Thundermist's recent annual report, you saw a 15 percent increase in the number of patients over the last year. To what do you attribute that increase?
JONES: Last year we saw increase growth in two main areas. Thundermist opened a new health center in West Warwick in 2011, and this allowed us to provide care to 3000 new patients last year. We also implemented a new service called QuickCare at each of our medical facilities. QuickCare is open late during the week and all day on weekends and holidays. In the first year of operation, our QuickCare providers saw over 11,000 patients in 17,000 visits. Besides being very accommodating to patients’ schedules, many of the visits, had Thundermist not been available, would have resulted in expensive trips to the emergency room.
PBN: In your opinion, what is the biggest single challenge community health centers face in providing quality care to its patients?
JONES: Our staff faces some serious headwinds in their efforts to connect patients to care outside our health centers. We will see an increase in demand from newly insured patients, but so will every other health care provider. Although we hope that the majority of uninsured patients gain access to insurance through the ACA, there will still be thousands left uninsured. Health Centers will likely remain the only accessible source of primary care for these patients.
PBN: What is your vision for Thundermist over the next five years?
JONES: In five years, our patients’ experiences at Thundermist will be transformed. We will move from fee-for-service, visit-based reimbursements to payments that reward us for keeping patients in the community, at work, in school, and healthy. This means that we will have resources to expand the services that simultaneously improve the lives of our patients and save the system money. More staff will spend more time in the community, at our patients’ sides, helping to navigate the health care system or manage their health at home. Technology will allow our staff to communicate with patients and other care providers seamlessly, 24x7. New analytic tools will help us to oversee the efficacy of every part of our patients care and be better at predicting and preventing problems before they occur. Other new tools and technology will help patients become more engaged and will motivate patients to improve their health. We will have fully integrated, evidence-based, alternative therapies like acupuncture (which we are actually piloting next month in West Warwick) into each of our centers.
Five years does not give us a long time, but the motivation of our staff to make these changes has never been greater.