Healthy Linkages: Addressing Health Disparities Through Academic/Community Partnerships & Collaborations

Sunday, 17 November 2013: 2:45 PM

Michael L Jones, RN, MSN, MBA
Office of the Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs (External Affairs), The University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to gain an understanding of health disparities and the nurse's role in addressing them.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will understand the Healthy Linkages project and how it has addressed Health Disparities in the state of Mississippi.

The purpose of this project is to ensure medical homes and access to specialty care to the uninsured and underserved in the state of Mississippi.  The Healthy Linkages Initiative is a collaboration between the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the Mississippi State Department of Health and the 21 Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in the state. Collectively, these three entities are the largest providers of care to the underserved and uninsured in the state. 

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, there was no formal communication between the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the sole academic medical center in Mississippi, the Mississippi State Department of Health Clinics, and the 21 FQHCs in the state (i.e. lack of trust). The medical center cared for approximately 17,000 patients in its emergency room each year for primary care visits; many of which were uninsured or underserved. Providers in the state’s FQHCs and county health department clinics were having difficulties getting appointments at the medical center for tertiary/specialty care. The devastation of Hurricane Katrina revealed the need for better collaboration, thus Healthy Linkages was formed. Healthy Linkages is comprised of many programs by which the three organizations collaborate to ensure adequate patient access to quality health care. One example is an emergency room diversion project that has directed many individuals to medical homes and has saved the medical center millions of dollars in costs. This is made possible through linkages via electronic medical records, where the emergency room staff of the medical center has access to the electronic medical record of the largest FQHC in the state. Patients are scheduled directly into the system for appointments. This presentation will discuss, in detail, how the only academic medical center in the state of Mississippi has addressed health disparities through partnerships with key safety net organizations.