National studies show that having a primary care physician leads to better health outcomes, but disparities remain in who can access and afford routine medical care.
That’s true in Philadelphia, where the city’s health department launched a web-based tool this week with the goal of making it easier for residents to identify where they can seek free and low-cost primary care.
“Particularly those who are uninsured or underinsured, to be able to be connected with key primary care and behavioral health services,” said Dr. Ana Martinez-Donate, a professor of community health and prevention at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health.
About one in six Philadelphians does not have a regular primary care provider for their health needs, according to a 2018 report. They’re more likely to be young, male, low-income, and uninsured.
“That means that hundreds of thousands of people in a city with some of the finest medical institutions in the country are not getting care for chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure,” said Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, the city’s health commissioner. “They’re not getting screenings for cancer, diabetes, and other problems that could be treated early to prevent complications later.”
The new web-based finder tool includes information for 57 health centers, a majority of which are federally qualified health centers. The site can be viewed in nine languages.
Users can search for providers by an address, or a language spoken at a health center. People can also filter their searches by age group, wait time, testing and imaging needs, and by type of primary or specialty care service.
“And these services are open to everyone, regardless of their condition, age, insurance or financial status,” said Natalie Levkovich, CEO of the Health Federation of Philadelphia.
The finder includes health centers that treat undocumented residents.
Search results for each location include the nearest public transit options, insurance and cost estimates, operation hours, and contact information.
Martinez-Donate said community coalitions and organizations like the Latino Health Collective worked with the city to make sure the site could be used by a diverse population.
“I think this is a tool that can really make a difference and help us advance towards health equity and to make sure that health is a human right,” she said.
City officials said the finder tool will be updated monthly to make sure health center information remains up to date.