Memphis Medical Foundation unveils new program to expand access to healthcare for people who are uninsured

Project Access West Tennessee, an integrated health improvement organization now serving West Tennessee, is the latest Project Access model program with a focus on coordinated efforts to increase healthcare access for low-income, uninsured people, aiming to reduce health disparity and inequity.

PAWT is committed to ensuring everyone in its service area can access the healthcare that they and their families need. PAWT is designed to bridge care gaps, improve health, and reduce avoidable healthcare cost and utilization. The program coordinates care between area hospitals, outpatient services and physician practices, along with a regional network of care providers and primary care services offered through safety-net clinics, health departments and federally qualified health centers.

“Individual health departments, safety-net clinics and healthcare providers do the best they can to care for uninsured, resource-limited people,” said Project Access West Tennessee Executive Director Nicole Scroggins. “But to truly improve the health of our communities and reach those who need our help the most, we all have to come together and work cooperatively and collaboratively.” With funding from the state of Tennessee Department of Health and support from Memphis Medical Foundation, this initiative has a regional focus, including rural and urban areas.

This new healthcare network was adapted from the national model of Project Access, and similar programs exist throughout the state in Hamilton County, Knoxville, Nashville, and the Appalachian Mountain area. All programs are currently in the process of expanding with the goal of total state coverage.

Through Project Access West Tennessee, uninsured patients who need specialty or diagnostic care are referred to the program from providers, hospitals, health departments, community clinics and faith-based centers. The network enrolls members based on a financial assessment, conducts social needs assessments and schedules necessary medical appointments, procedures, and testing. The regional program is building networks in Shelby County initially and will soon expand to cover their full region. The goal is to increase the number of individuals its serves month over month.

“Ultimately, this model of care delivery for Western Tennessee will show what is possible when we all work together to solve       a community-wide problem,” said Scroggins. “We are very pleased with the level of support from the essential partnerships we have already made with so many providers. Our goal is to grow the network to completely fill the care gaps that exist.”

PAWT’s first steps will be care coordination, and meeting care gaps for essential services. It will focus on connecting people with diagnostic and specialty care, with an emphasis on those in need of treatment for urgent and complex medical conditions. The care coordination team, which currently includes four case managers, will aid people with complex conditions, chronic disease or behavioral health issues and social needs. It will identify patients through referral sources, and it will provide disease and medication management education and counseling to prevent harm and unnecessary hospital visits. Throughout the process, the care team will also work with patients on prevention, health literacy and promoting healthy behaviors.

“This is a tremendous leap forward for our region, as we will be able to provide patients with the level of services that increase their access to the healthcare system and the quality of care they receive,” said Clint Cummins, MHA, CEO of Memphis Medical Foundation and Memphis Medical Society.

Patients who qualify for Project Access West Tennessee include those who do not have access to health insurance and whose income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. When these patients are referred to the program through a safety net clinic or primary care, they take part in an enrollment process that further evaluates their eligibility and medical needs, as well as their potential need for social services and other assistance.

Project Access West Tennessee welcomes inquiries from providers who may have patients who need assistance and those  specialty care providers who are interested in volunteering their time and services for these patients.

Providers, healthcare support staff and possible patients should call 901-761-0200.