Latest News for the Volunteer Physicans Network
Liberty Lauer is married and has three children. But like many families today, unable to afford basic insurance. After coming to the Garden City Community Clinic last spring, Dr. Dan Reed suspected she might have melanoma.
Liberty’s family works hard for their income, but because of it, they were not eligible for other assistance programs that require a person to have practically nothing in order to qualify. With the risk of skin cancer looming, what is a patient going to do in a circumstance like this?
In 2006, the Volunteer Physicians Network (VPN) was established for cases like this. Safety-net clinics like Garden City Community Clinic (GCCC) and Family Medicine Health Center (FMHC) are just the first stop for many people who have not been able to afford even primary health care. But primary care can’t do everything and eventually help is needed that reaches into specialty care.
Through VPN, Liberty was referred to Dr. Jared Scott of Idaho Skin Surgery Center. The diagnosis and labs alone would have cost a self-paying patient $387. Unfortunately, Dr. Scott confirmed that she had advanced melanoma requiring surgery.
Healthcare requires a team of people working together on patient needs and the foundation of the VPN is to collaborate with partners and respect the parameters of all services agreed upon. Specialists and service providers agree to see referred patients for a specific and limited number of appointments each month. They agree to donate that consult at no charge. Referrals are for medically necessary conditions, and care is for the least restrictive, most conservative treatment.
With an ever-increasing need for better coordination, VPN has expanded its staff this fall so that there are just 1-2 people handling the referral process rather than a variety of people from multiple clinics. GCCC and FMHC are the first two clinics to receive a dedicated “clinic rep” on VPN staff. This arrangement saves them even more time and money rather than having a nurse or social worker managing the process
Since the beginning of the program, VPN has managed its relationships and agreements in a way that has earned the trust of the specialists’ community and hospitals. With an increasing centralization of specialists coming under hospital systems, both St. Luke’s and Saint Alphonsus health systems have agreed to continue expanding access to more of their physicians and services. This will significantly increase the numbers of referrals and array of specialties that are available to VPN.
VPN helped arrange the surgical procedure that Liberty needed and she is healthy once again and has a whole new lease on life. “I will forever be thankful to each of you for your care, your time, and your sacrifice that you care for those in need,” says Liberty. “I just want you to know how grateful my family and I are and that we look for ways to ‘pay it forward.’”
This fall, VPN welcomed The Friendship Clinic in Boise and Community Care Clinic in McCall to allow for them to begin referring patients to long-needed specialists; the Canyon County Community Clinic also participates. We are also reaching out to other area clinics that serve the medically vulnerable populations that fall within VPN’s scope and look forward to helping other geographic areas create their own VPN’s. We are very grateful for the opportunity to facilitate access to more people across our region through our generous community partners.