Forum Focus – Access HealthColumbus

Coordinating transformational projects to improve access to and value of patient-centered primary care for the people of Central Ohio is the main goal for non-profit Access HealthColumbus (AHC). Founded in the late 1990s by the Columbus Medical Association Foundation, AHC has transformed from using its resources to improve access to health care for the most vulnerable in the community to now being the catalyst/coordinator of local health care delivery improvement projects.

Partnering with leaders from business, government, health care, and the social sector to implement local solutions based on actionable best practices, AHC has coordinated improvement projects that have enabled their public‐private partners to achieve the following results:

Improve care coordination for those most vulnerable in the community

  • Established the Voluntary Care Network that has coordinated over $60 million in donated health services from local physicians, hospitals and other health professionals. This initiative is currently administered by the Physicians Care Connection, a non-profit that coordinates health care for vulnerable people in collaboration with the Columbus Medical Association, physician and hospital leaders in Central Ohio.

Improve access to affordable primary care

  • Expanded primary care capacity for over 25,000 people by catalyzing new primary care services in medically underserved neighborhoods.

Improve access to affordable prescription drugs

  • Completed feasibility study on value of charitable pharmacies.
  • Coordinated the startup of the Charitable Pharmacy of Central Ohio, an independent non-profit organization, which has provided access to affordable prescription drugs to over 2,200 vulnerable people – valued at more than $6 million since opening in 2011.

Improve access to patient-centered primary care

  • Conducted medical home feasibility study for Franklin County.
  • Established collaborative of primary care organizations, purchasers (employers and health plans), consumers, and other strategic partners to advance patient-centered medical home activity in Central Ohio.

Using their strategic plan to guide allocation of their resources, AHC is currently coordinating a local improvement project with over 200 primary care providers practicing in private practice, hospital-affiliated, and federally qualified health centers serving over 350,000 patients with commercial insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, and the uninsured. AHC is providing assistance to help these practices achieve national recognition as patient-centered medical homes. In addition, AHC is compiling local comparative quality data to provide physicians and providers with access to accurate information to identify areas for quality improvement, and purchasers (and potentially consumers) with access to accurate information about the quality of care in the local health care market. AHC is also working on initiatives involving provider-based patient education and engagement, and value-based purchasing.

AHC has faced a few challenges and learned a few lessons along the way. Key lessons learned include recognizing the reason most collaborative projects fail is due to lack of clarity on purpose and time constraints of project participants, seeking no authority over others and working in a neutral space, respecting all perspectives, spending time on “what” questions before spending time on “how” to implement improvements, starting with actionable best practices (avoid reinventing the wheel), and not hiring consultants to do the work for members of the collaborative, rather, allocating technical assistance to enable/coordinate the collaborative to be efficient and effective.

Future plans for AHC include coordinating work on two different projects:

  • Federally Qualified Health Center Collaborative of Central Ohio: With Medicaid roles set to be expanded in 2014 as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), AHC will be working to develop a supply-demand planning tool and populate it with data to identify gaps between FQHC services and expanded Medicaid-eligible adults, and then coordinating a collaborative process with FQHCs to utilize the supply-demand planning tool in their respective service capacity planning.
  • Health Care Reform Collaborative of Central Ohio: AHC will be working to spread knowledge of federal health care reform in non-profit organizations to improve their ability to serve clients during the implementation of the ACA and increase the readiness in the local non-profit community to improve coordination of health care services in an era of scarce resources.

To learn more, contact Jeff Biehl, president, Access HealthColumbus, at or visit