Philadelphia Department of Public Health: Ambulatory Health Services

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health, under Ambulatory Health Services, has a total of 8 Health Care Centers, which provide comprehensive primary medical care and preventative services to underserved communities. During FY2012, the centers provided over 348,000 visits to underserved patients.

Mission:
To ensure the availability and accessibility of primary and public health care services to residents. To maintain and or improve the provision of high quality healthcare to those individuals who choose the Health Care Centers. To promote the Health Care Centers which offer ‘one stop services’ including the integration of traditional public health services such as immunizations, TB testing, STD services, HIV services and Women’s services (family planning and prenatal).

Service at PDPH Health Clinics as Patient Advocates:
Patient Advocates work in the Prescription Assistance Programs of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s (PDPH) Ambulatory Clinics. This year, there are a total of 15 PHC members serving in 8 PDPH clinics throughout the city. Patient advocates interact with patients on a one-on-one basis and help them to fill out applications for pharmaceutical manufacturer assistance programs. This allows patients in need of medication to receive it free of charge. Patient advocates also interact with the doctor and clinic staff to make sure that all components of the application are complete. They then order refills of the medication when needed and interact with pharmaceutical companies on the patient’s behalf.  The patient advocate role allows one to experience the everyday workings of a community primary care clinic and interact with a large number of patients.

Service at PDPH Health Clinics as Insurance Specialists:
Insurance specialists work to expand access to care by interviewing uninsured Health Center patients to determine if they qualify for a free or low-cost insurance program. They then submit applications for patients and follow up with the county assistance office or other insurance agency on the patient’s behalf. When necessary, they work to expand health literacy by taking the time to explain benefits packages to patients, how the insurance system works in Pennsylvania, and the value of having insurance. They traditionally work with pediatric patients and adults with either chronic or emergent medical conditions. However, their role has recently expanded with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. They are now also assisting community members in completing Marketplace applications, understanding the implications of the Affordable Care Act, and comparing insurance plans with the patient’s health needs in mind. The insurance specialist position involves a high degree of patient contact as well as interaction with the physicians and other health center staff and insurance companies.