Navigating Challenges in Community Health Management: Insights for Healthcare Leaders

    Posted by Karen Grace Larsen

    Community care is the bedrock of public health. Extending beyond the walls of traditional medical facilities, it reaches into the heart of local communities to deliver essential services and support to individuals of all backgrounds and circumstances.

    A diverse array of facilities, including community health centers (CHCs), federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), migrant health centers, rural health centers (RHCs), and free clinics, are at the forefront of this vital sector. 

    From preventive care and chronic disease management to health education and case management, community health centers (and the technology they use) play a crucial role in providing affordable care to all patients regardless of income and insurance status. And it’s no easy feat.

    Transforming Community Care: Healthcare Challenges to Tackle


    According to the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), community health centers deliver care to over 30 million patients, predominantly from underserved and vulnerable populations. As they accomplish this, they face a myriad of hurdles. Here are the main challenges faced by community healthcare workers and leaders:

    Financial Viability

    If you work in or manage a community health center, you know that they operate on limited budgets. They rely heavily on federal grants, Medicaid reimbursements, and other sources of public funding to sustain their operations. Because of this, funding fluctuations, uncertainties surrounding healthcare policy, and reimbursement disparities among different payer sources create volatility and financial strain among CHCs.

    Moreover, CHCs serve a high proportion of uninsured and underinsured patients. Instances of reimbursement rates not covering the total cost of care further compound their financial strain. As a result, organizations face significant obstacles to delivering quality services to their patients.

    Read More: 10 Important FQHC Billing Tips to Boost Revenue

    Healthcare Worker Shortage

    According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), 7,477 areas in the United States have a shortage of health professionals, reflecting a need for 12,980 health practitioners. FQHCs and rural health clinics are among the facilities in greatest need of workers.

    Community health centers struggle to recruit and retain skilled providers due to factors like:

    • Financial opportunity at a larger healthcare organization
    • Stressors impacting staff wellbeing
    • Professional growth

    Like other healthcare leadership challenges, the health worker shortage overshadows CHCs’ efforts to provide comprehensive and timely care to underserved populations. It leads to longer wait times for appointments, reduced access to specialty care, and compromised continuity of care for patients.

    Read More: Essential Steps to Take When Hiring Employees for Your FQHC

    Health Inequities

    The disparities in access to care pose a formidable challenge to community health efforts. Exacerbated by factors such as poverty, race, and geography, these inequities create barriers that hinder individuals from obtaining the healthcare services they need to thrive.

    Marginalized communities are disproportionately affected, facing significant obstacles such as limited transportation options, language barriers, and cultural insensitivity within the healthcare system. As a result, they often experience delays in diagnosis, inadequate treatment, and poorer health outcomes compared to more privileged counterparts.

    Insightful Tips for Addressing Community Health Needs


    Whether you’re a health worker or in community care leadership, challenges in healthcare planning and delivery will require innovative solutions, steadfast dedication, and collaborative efforts. Here are some invaluable tips to guide CHC leaders in their mission to create a brighter, healthier future for all:

    Know Your Community’s Needs

    Understanding your community's unique health needs is the first step toward effective intervention and prevention. By conducting comprehensive needs assessments, your team of healthcare providers can gather crucial data on prevalent health issues, demographic trends, and social determinants of health.

    These assessments serve as a roadmap for developing targeted improvement plans tailored to your community's needs. By continuously monitoring and evaluating the impact of interventions, your practice can effectively adapt its strategies to address evolving health demands.

    Prioritize Proactive and Preventive Care

    According to NACHC, health center patients suffer from chronic conditions (i.e., hypertension, high cholesterol, asthma, and diabetes) at higher rates than the general population. These chronic diseases pose a significant burden on community health, impacting individuals' quality of life and straining healthcare resources.

    Your organization must prioritize proactive and preventive care to manage chronic conditions and reduce their long-term impact effectively. Healthcare providers can implement measures such as regular screenings, health education programs, and lifestyle changes to empower individuals to take control of their health.

    You can further boost your practice’s chronic care management (CCM) program by considering FQHC electronic health record (EHR) systems fully equipped with robust CCM tools, a perfect example of which would be IMS.

    Be Strategic With Your Technology

    Technology plays a crucial role in enhancing the delivery of your healthcare services. Investing in a software solution designed for CHCs and FQHCs' unique needs can do wonders for your facility. By streamlining and automating operations, a reliable and robust system can relieve your team of unnecessary administrative burdens, allowing them to focus on patient care and better meet the community's diverse needs.

    Meditab’s IMS, for example, has the following CHC- and FQHC-specific EHR features that streamline workflows, improve care coordination, and enhance patient outcomes:

    • Sliding Fee Scale Automation
    • UDS Reporting Portal
    • Grant Eligibility Tracker
    • Customizable Specialty-Specific Templates
    • Multi-Specialty Modules on One Platform

    If you want to leverage technology for efficient operations and quality care, invest in a tried-and-tested FQHC EHR solution like IMS.

    Provide Inclusive and Culturally Sensitive Care

    According to NACHC, more than half of health center patients (63%) identify as a racial and/or ethnic minority. Understanding and respect are paramount to building trust, improving communication, and promoting health equity when providing care to a melting pot of cultures.

    Healthcare providers must recognize and respect the beliefs, values, and practices of the populations they serve. By offering inclusive and culturally sensitive care, providers can create welcoming environments where individuals feel valued and understood.

    Read More: The Importance of DEI in Patient Education

    Collaborate with Community Partners

    No community health center stands alone. Forging strong partnerships with local organizations, government agencies, and community stakeholders creates a network of support. This allows your team to maximize impact and address complex health issues comprehensively. By pooling resources, sharing expertise, and aligning efforts, healthcare providers can leverage collective strengths to meet the diverse needs of the community better.

    Equipping your practice with FQHC EHR systems that have healthcare interoperability features is an excellent way to enhance these partnerships. IMS enables the seamless exchange of patient information and data sharing among healthcare providers and other entities. This promotes care coordination, reduces duplicative efforts, and ensures that individuals receive the holistic and coordinated care they deserve. 

    Foster Wellness and Well-Being in Your Community With IMS


    Your community health center embodies the ethos of compassion, accessibility, and wellness within the neighborhoods and communities it serves. Unfortunately, the demand for community care has reached unprecedented levels, and CHCs are finding it increasingly difficult to meet these demands while maintaining their quality of care. 

    This is where IMS, an FQHC-specific EHR solution, steps in. By fully utilizing IMS features like telehealth, data analytics, third-party integrations, and seamless automation, your facility can do more with less resources expended. 

    With IMS, you can streamline administrative processes, facilitate remote consultations, and leverage data-driven insights to better meet your community's growing healthcare needs.

    Learn More About IMS for CHCs