Making a difference for 3,000 patients

June 01, 2016
The Southern California communities served by Providence Health & Services span dozens of diverse zip codes ranging from peaks of great wealth to valleys of deep poverty. This gap in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys grows wider, for those who live in the poorest neighborhoods, when it comes to specialized medical care.

Opening the door to specialty care

A significant portion of people in these underserved areas live in poor health status because they cannot afford or find consistent medical care. If they do have care, most clinics that serve low-income patients have limited access to medical specialists. The Providence Access to Care program supports communication between medical specialists and primary care providers to decide the next best step in a patient’s course of treatment. Otherwise, many patients would go without the medical care they need or experience a significant delay in their care.

A colossal relief for one patient

“I only have Medi-Cal, so my places of treatment are limited, but I was treated with respect and seen very quickly in the E.R.,” said Steve Stoliar, one of the 3,000 people served through the Providence Access to Care program in 2015. “Dr. Schwarzman spent time very thoroughly evaluating my eye, and he wanted me to follow up with an ophthalmologist.”

After many obstacles trying to find a specialist that would accept Mr. Stoliar’s Medi-Cal insurance, Providence nurse Lorraine Barrineau, R.N., “worked it out with Providence Access to Care Program so that I could, in fact, see an ophthalmologist and that Providence would cover the cost, which is a colossal relief,” he said. “As it turned out, there is more going on with my eye than Dr. Schwarzman was able to determine under the limited circumstances of the E.R.”

This kind of coordination makes all the difference. Providence’s community care coordinators help patients navigate the health system and connect them with Providence-affiliated specialists.

Community health needs assessment guides the way

The Access to Care program is available at three Providence hospitals in the L.A. area: Providence Saint Joseph, Providence Holy Cross and Providence Tarzana medical centers. For a total investment of about $150,000 each year, the program is a direct response to Providence’s assessment of community health needs, which identified accessible and affordable primary and specialty care, along with coordination of existing services, as an area of great need.