Communication improvements needed and other main takeaways from Central Health’s independent performance review

Central Health approved recommending an increase in homestead exemptions for certain Travis County residents for approval from the Travis County Commissioners Court

Central Health approved recommending an increase in homestead exemptions for certain Travis County residents for approval from the Travis County Commissioners Court

The long-awaited results of an independent performance review of Central Health were revealed at a Strategic Planning Committee meeting Feb. 13. Central Health’s performance was deemed “above-average” in the summarized report from Germane Solutions, the firm hired to conduct the review.

The review was compiled by gathering input from public focus groups and surveys, interviewing stakeholders, such as board members and key staffers, evaluating performance categories, such as organization, outreach and funding sources, and comparing findings to six Texas public health entities and 10 hospital districts throughout the U.S.

See the three main takeaways from the findings.

Communication is key
Regardless of an “above average” rating, Tracy Kulik, a representative of Germane Solutions said while Central Health has improved its branding, it has struggled to communicate to the public what it does well and what the public health entity is and is not responsible for.

“I think with Central Health, they’ve been so invested in getting out there a lot in the community that they don’t focus as much on having a unifying theme,” Kulik said.

One of the findings of the focus groups was a lack of understanding among Travis County residents about what Central Health does, Kulik said. Part of that confusion stems from Central Health's partnership model with a "multitiered" system of relationships, the report said. There is not a clear understanding of the roles of the CommUnity Care Collaborative, which is a separate 501(c)(3) corporation formed through Central Health's partnership with Seton Health Care Family, CommUnity Care Clinics which are Central Health's primarily federally funded heath clinics and Sendero Health Plans, Central Health's health maintenance organization.

Kulik said this harms both Central Health’s outreach efforts to populations in need as well as the public perception of what tax dollars are spent on through Central Health.

Funding needs support
Germane Solutions also recommended that Central Health find ways to diversify its funding sources so that it does not have to rely as heavily on tax dollars. Other public health entities in the U.S. have more government funding available than Central Health, but Kulik said another option to consider is securing funding from charitable organizations.

“When you look at how we fund health care and especially with the changes happening at the federal level, we need a business plan that can get us through not just the next one or two fiscal years but through the next several fiscal years,” Mike Geeslin, Central Health CEO said following the meeting.

When compared to other entities, one strength of Central Health’s funding that Germane Solutions identified was its relatively low dollar flow to its affiliated medical school, The University of Texas Dell Medical School. The report found Central Health’s portion of funding to Dell Medical School to be much lower than funding given to the affiliated medical school in Harris County. Central Health has been criticized in the past for its contributions to Dell Medical School.

A need for specialized physicians
Germane Solutions identified Central Health’s need for increased access to specialized physicians, although Kulik noted this need followed a national trend that did not put Central Health far behind other public health entities in Texas and the U.S., if at all.

What’s next
Over the next several weeks, Central Health will conduct a series of meetings and public workshops followed by an evaluation of the fiscal effects of proposed changes to the FY 2019 budget. In May, final recommendations will be adopted as necessary, according to Central Health.

View the report here.

By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


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