q A Practical Guide for Starting a Federally Qualified Health Center - Harcourt Health

A Practical Guide for Starting a Federally Qualified Health Center

Having access to quality health care can be difficult for many populations. With the exorbitant cost of health insurance, co-pays, and prescriptions, health care services are becoming out of reach. These factors are more defeating for populations and areas that lack medical facilities and health care professionals. Thankfully Federally Qualified Health Centers exist to bridge this gap and provide health services to underserved areas. Here is a practical guide for starting a Federally Qualified Health Center. 

What is a Federally Qualified Health Center? 

A Federally Qualified Health Center is an out-patient clinic that serves an underserved area or population. FQHCs provide primary care, behavioral health, chronic disease management, preventive care, and other specialty and ancillary services. To be considered a FQHC, an organization must provide services to all patients, regardless of their ability to pay, on a sliding fee discount program. 

The majority of the board of directors must be composed of patients from the community, and the center has to operate as either a non-profit or public organization. The Health Resources and Services Administration also states that a FQHC qualifies for enhanced reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid, as well as funding under the Public Health Service Act. 

To handle the influx of patients, appointments, and daily operations healthcare call center software can keep things efficient. Bright Pattern’s HIPAA compliant, cloud-based software provides medical professionals, patients, and pharmaceuticals omnichannel platform communication. This secure software is innovative and intuitive to provide a satisfactory patient experience. 

How to become a health center 

There are two ways to become a Federally Qualified Health Center. The first way is to apply for Health Center Program funding. The HRSA objectively reviews applications and awards New Access Point funding toward operational support for new health care service delivery sites. Only organizations that aren’t actively receiving Health Center Program funding and current funding recipients expanding to a new underserved population may apply for New Access Point funding. 

The second way to become a Federally Qualified Health Center is to apply for a look-alike designation. This path is not eligible for Health Center Program funding, but it’s eligible for other benefits such as a Health Professional Shortage Area designation. Look-alikes receive a discount on medication through the Federal Drug Pricing Program, and they have access to the National Health Service Corps providers. Look-alikes and FQHCs operate the same and provide the same services outlined by Health Center Program requirements. 

Legal counsel with experience in medical laws can help to establish a health care center as a non-profit organization and all applicable licenses. An accountant is essential to manage taxes, bookkeeping, and operational costs. When applying for funding, consider seeking someone with experience in grant writing, funding programs, and entitlement programs. Find an appropriate space to set up as a clinic; this can be donated space, or a location that can be converted to support medical equipment. 

Many nonprofit organizations are staffed by volunteers. Not only should the health center have sufficient space and means to accommodate patients, but it also needs to be a comfortable environment for all staff to effectively operate. Control room desks are functional, ergonomic, and aesthetically pleasing. You can factor quality, durable control rooms around budget, equipment specifications, sight-lines, and materials. 

The best method of advertising a health care center is through word of mouth within the community. Make sure information is made available to local churches, charities, food banks, and community centers. Because the target demographic is low-income and underserved populations, reach out to the areas where uninsured patients are commonly found.