Theresa Patterson is the executive director of the Gennesaret Free Clinics, and she is also trained as a nurse. Given her background, she understands the two sides of the coin of running this type of organization: Business decisions drive her clinic’s ability to offer free healthcare services to underserved populations in the Indianapolis community.
“You must have data to deliver these services, and you must show provable outcomes,” Patterson said. “It’s no longer enough to count how many patients we saw in a clinic – you need to know what you treated them for. Did they receive medications? Is their blood pressure controlled enough to avoid advanced, costly disease? It’s not enough if it isn’t moving the dial and pushing life expectancy data in the other direction.”
With seven medical clinics, a mobile clinic, one dental clinic and three recovery homes, Gennesaret is meeting a lot of needs in the community. To achieve her goals, Patterson partnered with students in the Graduate Certificate in Medical Management at the Kelley School of Business on a consulting project. Then, she agreed to do two more projects.
“While managing student-led projects is a significant project for staff, we were judicious. We took on three projects with Kelley students because we were beginning our strategic planning, and we wanted smart people thinking about this,” Patterson said. “These students were brilliant. They came with learning ears and fresh perspectives.”
We took on three projects with Kelley students because we were beginning our strategic planning, and we wanted smart people thinking about this.”
In one project, the Kelley healthcare administration students created Gennesaret’s first patient satisfaction survey. Because the clinic’s patient population includes many underserved and marginalized populations such as minorities and people living with homelessness, it’s crucial the patient voice is heard and reflected in Gennesaret’s services. Patterson says there were several cultural sensitivities to consider in drafting an effective patient satisfaction survey.
“The students looked at our intake paperwork and how we ask questions. Even asking for a social security number must be considered from the perspective of an undocumented person,” Patterson said. “The students’ first draft fell short, but they worked through it and fine-tuned the survey to something that was so much simpler, streamlined and usable for us. That was a big reflection of their growth as they progressed through that project.”
There are several organizations supporting people living with homelessness in Marion County, but they don’t always work together. In another project, Kelley students helped Gennesaret evaluate and identify appropriate partnerships to provide services to this patient population beyond the scope of the clinic’s capabilities. Student teams mapped out suitable agencies, examined electronic medical records (EMR) to understand patient needs and proposed potential opportunities. Patterson says the project was formative for her organization to close gaps in services and generate additional data points. She says her team also recognized they’ll need more support to achieve these goals.
“As a result of this project, we’ve prioritized and invested in hiring a patient care coordinator to manage the key components of referral follow-ups, medical compliance and follow-up appointments,” Patterson said. “It’s so interesting how these students discovered that in their brief time with us, and we ultimately identified it as a significant priority worth funding.”
The third project Kelley students completed with Gennesaret was to examine service line optimization and determine if the clinic is providing its patients with the most appropriate services. Students did a deep dive into EMR data to compare what services patients are getting versus what services the clinic actively promotes.
“We say we treat diabetes and high blood pressure, but what we really need to be treating is sexually transmitted infections (STIs). And do we offer that in a mobile clinic or a stationary one?” Patterson said. “The Kelley students helped us identify strong data to support how we update our formulary of medications so we can treat STIs and have the right medications to be responsive to the community as they present themselves to us. We have since pivoted our clinic operations to enhance our mobile unit, and we have a much sharper focus on what’s actually being provided and how we should provide it.
“We don’t always have the time to dissect and think about a problem,” she added. “That’s the benefit of having these healthcare management students dig into the data and put it into a presentation that’s really digestible and usable for us.”
We don’t always have the time to dissect and think about a problem. That’s the benefit of having these healthcare management students dig into the data and put it into a presentation that’s really digestible and usable for us.”
Students in the Graduate Certificate in Medical Management Program are typically working full-time in a variety of healthcare or science fields. Whether they are nurses, occupational therapists, medical students or clinic administrators, the lessons from this “mini-MBA” help them maneuver in the business of healthcare. Students gain practical skills for their jobs while also generating useful problem-solving capabilities for local organizations who partner on these capstone projects.
“The students’ final presentations blew us away. They were so thoughtful, and it was very impressive. I just kept thinking, ‘This is our future; these are our future healthcare leaders and providers,’” Patterson said. “Having these students invested in and knowledgeable about Gennesaret’s work is so important. We find Kelley students to be very passionate about what they encounter when they work with us, and we feel like we’re grooming future leaders with an awareness of how everyone in their community is living.”