2014 Statewide Survey Report

“Front Line Responders” to Health Systems Change: A Report on Illinois’ Free & Charitable Clinics

The healthcare landscape in Illinois is rapidly changing.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has increased health insurance access to previously uninsured and underinsured populations through Medicaid expansion and private insurance premium subsidies. Concurrently, providers are under pressure to provide more cost-effective and outcome-oriented care.

The role of free and charitable clinics is unique and essential — a “front line responder” that rapidly identifies gaps in healthcare access as well as emerging health trents. While the ACA provides access to new health insurance options, many of the patients served by free and charitable clinics still need our services.

IAFCC conducted a survey of free and charitable clinics in Illinois to better understand how free and charitable clinics across Illinois do the vital work of caring for patients who might otherwise fall through the state’s healthcare safety net. In May 2014, a 38-question survey was distributed to 42 free and charitable clinics across the state.

Key Findings

Caring for Patients

  • Key Finding #1: In 2013, 21 free and charitable clinics in 18 counties across Illinois served 67,861 unduplicated patients and provided over 83,000 healthcare visits.
  • Key Finding #2: Free and charitable clinics provide comprehensive primary care and chronic disease treatment to uninsured and underinsured low-income patients including immigrants, homeless, formerly incarcerated, persons with substance abuse disorders and veterans.

Maximizing Resources

  • Key Finding #3: In 2013, free and charitable clinics sustained a vital healthcare safety net with charitable contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations, over 151,824 volunteer hours, and in-kind donations of medications as well as diagnostic and specialty services.
  • Key Finding #4: Free and charitable clinics are sites of continuous learning, clinical training, and medical education for students, residents and practitioners, as 78% of responding clinics provide valuable hands-on training for the healthcare professions.

Responding to Changes in Healthcare

  • Key Finding #5: During January, February and March 2014 – the first three months of the Affordable Care Act implementation – patients continued to seek out free and charitable clinics for services.
  • Key Finding #6: Free and charitable clinics are nimble and able to quickly adapt to rapid changes in healthcare delivery and local healthcare needs.
  • Key Finding #7: Free and charitable clinics are participating in healthcare innovations, with 83% of clinics utilizing data-driven quality improvement strategies and 52% using Electronic Health Records, though inadequate funding and lack of staff/volunteer time continue to be significant obstacles.