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Health Care Leaders Discuss Importance of Improving Equitable Access

Published Apr 12, 2023 by Brina Morales

Image of doctors conducting MRI

Photo courtesy of Visit Houston

Addressing affordability and social determinants to improve equitable access to health care is fundamental for the future of Houston. That was the key takeaway from the Partnership’s inaugural Future of Health Care event, which drew more than 450 health care leaders to discuss key factors driving the future of health care, including innovation and workforce challenges.

Challenges in Health Care

“It’s not about access to health care. It’s about access to health,” Dr. David Callender, President and CEO of Memorial Hermann Health System, said during the panel. “We’re all thinking what we need to do differently to improve that access.”

Callender and Dr. Esmaeil Porsa, President and CEO of Harris Health System, discussed the importance of working with community partners to address social determinants that prevent people from accessing quality health care. Porsa said focusing on how we, as a community, can elevate our neighbors economically will help improve health and reduce disparities. 

One way Harris Health, the largest public primary care health network in the state, is addressing these obstacles is by building partnerships with local organizations. Earlier this year, Harris Health and South Texas College of Law Houston teamed up to provide free legal services to patients needing to address ‘health harming’ situations, such as a patient suffering from chronic asthma stuck in a mold-infested rental property.

Addressing the rising costs of health care is another challenge. Dr. Juliet Breeze, CEO of Next Level Medical, shared that about 55-60% of Next Level’s patients come into their clinics without a primary care relationship. 

“There is an affordability crisis and that is impacting access,” Breeze said, adding that moving toward value-based care, where providers are paid based on the quality and health outcomes of patients instead of a fee-for-service system, will increase access and affordability.  

Dr. Tony Lin, Chairman of the Board & Managing Director of Kelsey-Seybold Clinics, agreed with Breeze, saying “outcomes instead of volume is key for innovation in the future of health care.” 

Innovation and Opportunities

Since opening its first urgent care clinic in 2013, Next Level has expanded to offering primary care through a membership model called Next Level Prime. The program allows employers to buy health care coverage for employees. Breeze said the membership model for primary care aims to increase access and build healthier generations.

Not only are providers and health care systems looking at how they can address costs, but they’re also finding innovative ways to address staffing shortages and improve the talent pipeline. 

  • Kelsey-Seybold works with high schools and community colleges such as San Jacinto College and Houston Community College.  
  • Harris Health partners with Lone Star College’s Nursing Program and other educational institutions to provide training in a clinical setting. The health system has also started targeting high schools in underserved areas to identify education and training opportunities for students.

The Partnership’s Advocacy Work

The Partnership is committed to the future of Houston’s health care industry, which is a driver of growth and opportunity for the region, by working with our elected officials and partners to advocate for health care policies around Medicaid coverage, and maternal and mental health on the state level.

On the federal level, the Partnership supports the Houston Life Sciences Coalition’s bid to bring a headquarters location to Houston for a new federal agency charged with health innovation, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health or ARPA-H. The coalition is being led by the Texas Medical Center, home to some of the world’s leading hospitals and research facilities.


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