Donna Thompson, RN, MS, CEO of Access Community Network
Donna Thompson, RN, MS, CEO of Access Community Network

Dissolving the walls: Connecting clinics with communities

By Dona Cutsogeorge, staff author and web content writer at the MacColl Center for Health Care Innovation at Group Health Research Institute.


Most communities provide important servicesthat can be helpful to patients with chronic illnesses, especially within low-income populations.  But opportunities to connect patients with these services are often missed without strategic planning to weave them into daily practice.  Linking your primary care clinic to your surrounding communities can address these gaps but it’s not always easy to do – and it requires a commitment to understanding the world beyond the walls of your clinic.

A free recorded webinar called "Dissolving the Walls: Clinic Community Connections" will help your primary care practice begin connecting patients to valuable community services.  The webinar features guest speaker Donna Thompson, RN, MS, CEO of Access Community Network, who examines the ways that her Chicago-based organization offers non-medical services, links to quality community resources, and acts as an advocate in their communities for resources and programs that may be needed.  In this presentation, she reflects upon the strategic planning underpinning their commitment, and the importance of measuring impact within the communities they serve.

Distinguished Group Health Research Institute scientific investigator and physician Ed Wagner describes the benefits that innovative primary care practices experience via the purposeful integration of their communities into their clinics.  His use of the plural "communities" is a careful choice, because clinics often serve a variety of sub-populations. Making these connections can help attract and retain patients because they find people in the clinic who are like them.  Patients in community health centers that employ people from their communities find that they’re able to have conversations with providers that have often been impossible (or at least very difficult).  Important information is picked up by front desk staff and MAs that would otherwise be missed.  Providers are often not aware of the resources and agencies that can most benefit patients.  Community health workers, MAs, and other staff can help develop relationships with these resources -- which can include services such as transportation, peer support, and patient navigators.

This CME-approved webinar also features a fascinating history of the community medicine movement beginning with its origins in South Africa in the mid-1940s.

Webinar objectives:

1. Participants will be able to make the distinction between understanding individual patients, and understanding patient communities and culture.

2. Participants will be able to identify three ways they can better connect with their communities to provide the services their patients need.

“Dissolving the Walls: Clinic Community Connections” is part of the Transforming Teams series, a partnership between Connecticut’s Community Health Center, Inc. and the MacColl Center for Health Care Innovation in Seattle.    (June 2, 2016, 60 minutes)

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