The Partnership’s 2008 Primary Care Access Study has served as the foundation for a long-range plan to address the need for access to primary health care services. The study found that while the county had an adequate supply of primary care providers based on physician to population ratios, profound shortages existed in the neighborhoods with the greatest medical need:
- In Milwaukee County, the 10 zip codes with the highest levels of poverty had 45% of the population, including 71% of the vulnerable population — but only 27% of the primary care physicians. This imbalance framed the ‘gap in access.’
- Nationally, the gap in primary care access is approximately 20% for all populations and 30% for vulnerable populations. In Milwaukee County, the gap was significantly greater — 54% for vulnerable populations — underscoring the need for strategies to address unmet healthcare needs.
Milwaukee Health Care Partnership members have engaged in a number of strategies — collectively and independently — to help close the gap in access to primary care services:
- Milwaukee’s Federally Qualified Health Centers have expanded capacity through provider recruitment, extended hours and facility expansion. Currently, two new FQHC clinic locations are in development.
- The Safety Net Clinic Referral Directory, published since 2009, is a comprehensive inventory with essential information about 63 primary care, dental, mental health and specially clinics in Milwaukee County that serve uninsured and low-income patients. It provides a variety of information about each safety net clinic — including location, hours, payment practices, languages spoken, and types of clinical services and screenings offered. The directory is a critical resource for hundreds of health and human service professionals and IMPACT 2-1-1 community resource specialists, in their support to individuals seeking free and low-cost health care services.
- Milwaukee’s health systems have directed over $23 million in annual support to community clinics and other partners to expand access, build capacity and enhance care coordination.