Five Questions With: Dr. Melinda Delaney

The Rhode Island Free Clinic has recently announced that Dr. Melinda Delaney will serve as its new medical director. Delaney spoke to Providence Business News about her background and outlook on her new role.

PBN: What are your priorities in your new role as Rhode Island Free Clinic’s new medical director?

DELANEY: I’m excited and honored to join the free clinic in this important leadership role as medical director. Top priorities include continuing to build on the quality of care we provide and strengthening our efforts to recruit volunteer providers to ensure we can serve more patients effectively.

 

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How does your background prepare you for this new role?

DELANEY: I have been working at the free clinic for just over the past two years as a core faculty and primary care provider. Prior to this, I had volunteered in the free clinic setting in both Pittsburgh and Detroit. I came into my career as an attending knowing I wanted to do free care and I consider it a privilege to work with our population. It is a cause near and dear to my heart!

What are some of the challenges with recruiting volunteers and how do you plan to address them?

DELANEY: I think one of the challenges is identifying individuals whose skills, interests and availability align with our needs. We are working on some targeted recruitment strategies and reaching out to partnership organizations to expand our reach and share the mission of our clinic to more individuals who may be interested in volunteering.

We are also developing some retention strategies to recognize and appreciate volunteers’ efforts, provide opportunities for skill development and advancement, and create a positive and inclusive volunteer community and avoid volunteer burnout.

What steps are you taking to build upon the quality of care provided to the clinic’s patients?

DELANEY: Quality patient care is our No. 1 priority. We continue to put patients first and focus on their needs, preferences and values. We are continuing to expand services based on patient needs and recruit more volunteers to be able to provide care to a growing patient population.

We have a new partnership with Lifespan Pharmacy and Dispensary of Hope, which allows our patients to access medications free of charge.  We are developing and implementing evidence-based guidelines and protocols to standardize care practices and help keep our patients out of the emergency room.

These protocols are being shared to all team members and we are building on a culture of transparency so that all staff feel updated and prepared for changes that are implemented. We are also developing dashboards for quality metrics such as breast cancer screening to ensure our patients are getting all of the recommended primary prevention.

What are some of the recent trends you’ve noticed in Rhode Island’s health care system? 

DELANEY: I think one or two of the biggest trends right now are 1) prolonged wait times to access both primary and specialty care, which probably largely relates to the national epidemic of physician burnout, and 2) rising health care costs per person in Rhode Island – on average Rhode Islanders spend about 2.5 times more on health care costs today than they did three years ago.

In regard to the first, the saddest part about this issue of physician burnout and lack of physician retention is that the patients ultimately are the ones who suffer the most with the lack of timely access to care. At the free clinic, we continue to try to foster the partnerships we have and create an enjoyable and inclusive environment to help prevent burnout and retain volunteers so that our patients have the accessibility they deserve.

In terms of health care costs, we work as a team to problem-solve and strategize to provide as many free services as we can, and we advocate fiercely for our patients to try to reduce individual health care expenditures.

Katie Castellani is a PBN staff writer. You may contact her at Castellani@PBN.com.