Community health centers lagging in quality

As community health centers prepare for a major expansion under health reform, an analysis found that the more than 1,200 federally funded community health centers perform poorly on fundamental care quality measures.

Almost 75 percent the centers performed significantly worse than national averages on helping diabetics maintain blood sugar levels and cervical cancer screenings in 2010, the most recent federal data available, Kaiser Health News and USA Today reported.

Oakhurst Medical Center near Atlanta was one of eight community health centers that fell below the national average for all six quality care indicators, while 61 centers didn't the make the grade on at least five indicators. Oakhurst's poor results follow regional trends, as centers in the South generally perform worse than those in New England, the Midwest and California.

"Of course this raises a concern for us," Cindy Zeldin, executive director of health advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future told KHN. "We have so many uninsured for whom the community health centers are one of the few places where they can go for primary care."

However, the quality report cards don't account for the fact that some health centers treat sicker patients, KHN noted. Moreover, most patients are uninsured or covered by Medicaid, which can strain the health centers' finances. According to federal health offices, the report cards still are encouraging better performance.

While the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will begin penalizing hospitals for not meeting quality care metrics, community health centers will be spared, according to the article.

To learn more:
- read the KHN/USA Today article
- check out the data