Academic health centers and community health centers partnering to build a system of care for vulnerable patients: lessons from Carolina Health Net

Acad Med. 2013 May;88(5):638-43. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31828a3b8a.


Academic health centers (AHCs) are challenged to meet their core missions in a time of strain on the health care system from rising costs, an aging population, increased rates of chronic disease, and growing numbers of uninsured patients. AHCs should be leaders in developing creative solutions to these challenges and training future leaders in new models of care. The authors present a case study describing the development, implementation, and early results of Carolina Health Net, a partnership between an AHC and a community health center to manage the most vulnerable uninsured by providing access to primary care medical homes and care management systems. This partnership was formed in 2008 to help transform the delivery of health care for the uninsured. As a result, 4,400 uninsured patients have been connected to primary care services. Emergency department use by enrolled patients has decreased. Patients have begun accessing subspecialty care within the medical home. More than 2,200 uninsured patients have been assisted to enroll in Medicaid. The experience of Carolina Health Net demonstrates that developing a system of care with primary care and wrap-around services such as pharmacy and case management can improve the cost-effectiveness and quality of care, thereby helping AHCs meet their broader missions. This project can serve as a model for other AHCs looking to partner with community-based providers to improve care and control costs for underserved populations.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / organization & administration*
  • Community Health Centers / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Medicaid
  • Medically Uninsured*
  • North Carolina
  • Patient-Centered Care / organization & administration*
  • Program Development
  • Program Evaluation
  • United States
  • Vulnerable Populations*