by John R. Fischer
, Senior Reporter | August 10, 2021
The University of Houston College of Medicine plans to open a low-cost direct primary care clinic for patients without health insurance.
Using a $1 million gift from the Cullen Trust for Health Care, UHCOM will open the facility on the campus of Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital and plan for it to be the first in a network of clinics that it hopes will open up access to care in Houston, which has the highest rate of uninsured residents in the U.S.
“A direct primary care practice will add value to the local health care ecosystem by tackling one of the most pressing problems of our city: the lack of a comprehensive primary care system for the uninsured,” said University of Houston president, Renu Khator.
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High rates of uninsured patients drive up overall healthcare costs for all. With direct primary care, patients can pay a modest monthly membership fee for a broad spectrum of primary healthcare services. Few in Texas and across the U.S., however, specifically target low income patients who do not possess health insurance, especially in Houston, where approximately 25% of the population lacks health insurance. This is more than double the national average.
Under the UHCOM’s DPC, patients will have access to comprehensive primary care services, telehealth, basic office procedures, at cost laboratory testing and access to medications at reduced prices. Same-day or next-day appointments will be guaranteed. The clinic will be located in Southwest Houston where nearly one in three people live below the federal poverty line, and the uninsured rate is 45%. This is five times higher than the nation (9%).
UHCOM faculty physicians will work on-site as staff and train UH health professions students at the facility. In addition to access for uninsured patients, the facility will enhance focus on population health and social determinants of health, and aims to form trusting relationships with these patients. The university hopes to establish DPC practices in other communities of Greater Houston to reduce health disparities.
“We aim to improve the health of our patients by addressing their social determinants of health and effectively managing their chronic conditions, while avoiding unnecessary hospitalizations or emergency visits,” said Omar Matuk-Villazon, director of the direct primary care clinic and UHCOM clinical assistant professor of pediatrics. “Bottom line, our goal is to partner with our patients to improve their health.”