Community Healthcare in Action
We help low-income, uninsured people receive the specialty and surgical care they need but cannot afford by leveraging community-based medical volunteerism. Project Access is dedicated to restoring our patients’ ability to work, support loved ones and enjoy healthy lives while preventing the development of more serious medical conditions. The donated consultations, surgeries and procedures provided through our organization also help reduce the strain on emergency rooms, where most Project Access patients would otherwise turn for care.
Today, the PASD network includes over 80 referring community clinics, more than 625 medical professionals, 10 hospitals, and 14 outpatient surgical centers throughout San Diego County. We have served over 1,700 patients since late 2008 with more than 4,500 specialty medical appointments, 365 surgeries, and 85 diagnostic endoscopy procedures.
Delivering on our mission, Project Access provides much-needed medical care to patients while creating meaningful, local volunteer opportunities for medical professionals. Project Access’ network of volunteer physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare service partners provide the full range of healthcare at no charge to low-income, uninsured residents of San Diego County.
The program greatly benefits the entire community:
- Reduces use and cost of Emergency Departments
- Reduces uncompensated hospital stays
- Gets people back to work and supporting their families
- Reduces repeat visits to community clinics for unresolved health issues
- Provides community with a healthier, more stable work force
- Assures employers of reduced absenteeism and increased productivity
The Project Access model started in Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina in 1996. The physicians of the Buncombe County Medical Society realized the need for access to the full continuum of care for all low-income, uninsured residents of the community. Using the public commitment of our physicians to treat every low-income, uninsured resident was a leveraging tool to obtain commitments from others in the community. There are currently 50 Project Access-type volunteer physician programs around the country, each adapted to fit that community’s distinct needs.
How Project Access Works
Project Access San Diego coordinates a network of healthcare providers who donate medically necessary health care to qualified individuals. We rely on our partnerships to improve health and change lives. Simply put, Project Access is based on physicians volunteering their time to see patients for free, and other community partners, such as hospitals, donating additional medical services the patients need.
Primary care providers, most generally the community health centers, refer appropriate patients in need of specialty healthcare services to PASD. Each case is reviewed within a week by our Care Managers and Medical Director to assess appropriateness of care, patient eligibility and availability of resources. The Care Managers help patients navigate the healthcare system, advocate for insurance coverage as appropriate, and assure that patients receive necessary testing, imaging and other services prior to their appointments with specialists. They also arrange for transportation and language interpretation services as needed. And they work closely with the specialty care office staff to assure an efficient and effective patient visit for the patient, physician and staff.
Care management is an essential part of PASD that sets the program apart from simple patient referral programs. Care managers also follow the patient throughout their treatment plan, assuring that follow-up services and visits are scheduled, case notes are communicated between the primary care provider and specialist, and that the patient understands and is able to comply with their treatment plan. Both the specialists and primary care providers express their satisfaction with PASD due to the close follow-through by the care managers.
Patient needs can vary from a consultation appointment to a substantially more complicated surgical procedures. For the most part, PASD is able to serve patients needing short-term specialty care. Currently, resources are limited for treatment of cancer, other chronic diseases, or major non-emergency surgeries.
Project Access Results in a Healthier Community
In return for these commitments, our hospital system has seen a dramatic reduction in ER utilization among this population and a huge savings in charity dollars. The community health centers have greatly increased their capacity — patients require fewer visits to clinics because they now have access to specialists and medications, and thus have improved their health. And the uninsured patient population reports better health than our insured population!