Frequently Asked Questions

What is People’s Community Clinic?

People’s Community Clinic is Austin’s only independent clinic offering comprehensive health and wellness care to improve the quality of health for our uninsured neighbors. The clinic has offered services continuously for the past 40 years and is one of the longest-running independent clinics for primary care in America. It is locally managed, privately funded, and focuses on meeting the primary healthcare needs of uninsured and underserved residents in the greater Austin area.

What services are provided at People’s Community Clinic?

People’s Community Clinic offers a broad array of primary health and wellness services—prenatal, pediatric and adult care; specialized adolescent care; immunizations; testing and screenings; social work and mental health services; nutritional and healthy lifestyle counseling. The clinic also maintains an onsite pharmacy and lab, allowing “one stop shopping” for our patients.

Who does People’s Community Clinic serve?

People’s Community Clinic offers care with respect and dignity to people with little or no health insurance, without exclusion. Our 10,000 patients are part of the growing number of people without health insurance in our community. They represent a large and varied section of the population—all facing the challenge of accessing affordable healthcare.

The clinic removes barriers to care and provides access regardless of geographic location, financial means or immigration status. Seventy-five percent of our patients are at or below 100 percent of the U.S. Federal Poverty Level ($23,550/year for a family of four). Our patients are 78 percent Hispanic, 14 percent Caucasian, 7 percent African-American, and 1 percent other ethnicities.

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How did the clinic get its start?

The clinic’s history is a reflection of Austin’s – from hippies to households. It was founded as People’s Free Clinic in 1970 in the basement of the Congregational Church on Guadalupe across from the University of Texas campus, by a handful of visionary volunteer doctors and nurses. Initially, the clinic served mostly college students and part-time workers, but today, the demand for affordable primary care is much greater. The clinic’s one hundred and sixty medical and administrative personnel, and many volunteers, are dedicated to improving the health of an increasing number of under- and uninsured in our area.

How many people benefit from People’s Community Clinic?

Everyone in Austin benefits from People’s Community Clinic, either by direct healthcare services or in taxpayer savings when patients are kept out of overcrowded emergency rooms. People’s Community Clinic is the healthcare home for more than 10,000 Central Texans. During 2012, the clinic provided 34,000 visits with medical providers—physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants.

How do people become patients at the clinic? Are you accepting new patients now?

Our patients come to us through word of mouth, as well as collaborations with LifeWorks, Austin Children’s Shelter, and SafePlace. With more than 250,000 uninsured residents of Travis County alone, there is much demand. We also partner with St. David’s Medical Center to provide access to patients who are being discharged from the hospital or who are referred by the emergency room. We accept 1,000 referrals a year through this partnership; these patients are typically adults dealing with serious chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.

Currently we have openings for expectant mothers and teens, and we always accept babies born into the practice through our prenatal care program. More than 900 babies were born into our practice last year.

We don’t like to turn away people who need healthcare, but we also want to take excellent care of the patients we do have. We strive to find the right balance between increasing our number of patients and maintaining our high quality of care.

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Do patients pay for services?

Yes, uninsured patients pay for office visits on a sliding scale determined by their income and family size. Patient fees represent 5 percent of the clinic’s annual income.

What is the clinic’s model of care?

People’s Community Clinic has pioneered a healthcare model that provides the right care, at the right time, in the most cost-efficient way. This model emphasizes preventive care provided by a consistent primary care team, which includes a physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant supported by a nurse and medical assistant. In addition, the medical team is supported by social workers, health educators, a nutritionist and behavioral psychologist as needed. The team is able to treat the “whole person,” addressing nutritional, behavior and social impediments to long-term health.

Being treated by the same care team at each visit ensures patients know and trust their providers and allows provider and patient to proactively manage health issues together, rather than address when those problems become acute. This model for care is also better for the community by reducing the impact of emergency room care costs on the taxpayer.

Offering a comprehensive range of healthcare services in one facility allows patients to have blood drawn and learn test results or pick up their prescriptions or have their appointment—all in the same place. This enhances patient adherence to ongoing medical treatment and prescription recommendations and meets the needs of our working patients, many of whom struggle with transportation and childcare issues.

Does the clinic offer any specialized programs?

People’s Community Clinic is the only clinic in Austin to offer specialized healthcare for adolescents, including services for homeless youth and parenting teens through community partners. The clinic’s Tandem Program has been successful in helping teen mothers to prevent subsequent pregnancies. Nationally, over 25 percent of teen mothers become pregnant again within one year of delivery, but among Tandem participants only 7 percent of have become pregnant again within one year of delivery.

Participants in the clinic’s Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH) program demonstrate significant declines in depression, and fewer visits for primary and emergency room care. Such integrated treatment for mental health issues mean patients receive high quality mental health services from social workers and a consulting psychiatrist, instead of instead of discussing these issues with their primary care provider. This approach is cost-effective and ensures better mental health treatment outcomes for patients.

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Is the clinic affiliated with any major medical organizations or religious entities?

People’s Community Clinic is an independent private nonprofit clinic, which means that it is not affiliated with any major medical organization, religious entity or governmental agency. This independence enables the clinic to develop innovative new programs and adapt quickly to local healthcare needs.

Does the clinic partner with other area nonprofits?

The clinic is involved in formal and informal partnerships with the following organizations: Any Baby Can, Austin Child Guidance Center, Austin Children’s Shelter, Austin Oriental Medicine Academy, Austin and Manor Independent School Districts, Central Health, the Indigent Care Collaboration, LifeWorks, Project Access of the Travis County Medical Society, Reach Out and Read, SafePlace, St. David’s Foundation, St. David’s Healthcare System, and University of Texas Southwestern Austin Pediatrics.

In addition to the central clinic at IH-35 and 30th Street, PCC has outreach sites at Austin Children’s Shelter, LifeWorks, and SafePlace facilities. These collaborative sites leverage the client relationships and physical facilities of community partners by placing its trained medical staff at organizations which have clinic space. This collaborative approach makes it easy for pediatric, adolescent and young adult patients to obtain care and allows the clinic to expand capacity without undertaking costly capital projects.

How does the clinic handle patients who need specialty care?

While the clinic offers more comprehensive care than many primary care facilities, we have limitations. For services that the clinic is not equipped to provide, such as dental and specialty treatment, People’s Community Clinic relies on longstanding relationships with specialists and partner agencies. Several times a year, the St. David’s Foundation dental van visits PCC to provide dental care services to patients. The clinic also participates in the Travis County Medical Society’s Project Access program, which refers patients to participating specialists for free or reduced cost care. Such specialty care includes gastroenterology, endocrinology and cardiology. In addition, the clinic benefits from several specialist providers who volunteer their time serving clinic patients on-site.

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How does the clinic continue to provide economical healthcare in the face of rising costs?

The clinic maintains financial stability through the generous support of the Central Texas community and through constant efforts to increase efficiency.

In 2006 the Board of Directors created two new giving groups, the “Council of 100” and the “President’s Council”. Council of 100 members make an annual of gift of $1,000, contributing more than $130,000 in 2010. President’s Council members contribute $5,000 annually and their gifts totaled almost $100,000 last year. The clinic’s annual fundraiser, the “There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch” Luncheon raised more than $300,000 for PCC in 2010.

Examples of how the clinic increases its efficiency include reducing the client no-show rate and aggressively recovering costs through reimbursement programs for which some patients are eligible (i.e.-Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP programs). Recognizing that when patients seek an appointment they want to be seen quickly, the clinic works to keep the wait time for the next available appointment short. Currently the wait time for adult appointments is 9 days. Patients are more likely to keep their appointments when there is less of a wait, and this keeps the “no-show” rate low. In reducing the number of “no-shows”, we are able to see more patients.

In an effort to ensure the clinic collects all available reimbursements from programs like Medicaid, Medicare and CHIP, we have focused on educating all staff about the importance of the revenue cycle and the contribution that all make to enhanced revenue collection. Each person involved with a patient knows that gathering and entering accurate data on the front end ensures more comprehensive reimbursement on the back end and is essential to the clinic’s overall financial success. In a high-touch environment such as healthcare, time is indeed money.

How is the clinic funded?

The clinic receives almost 50 percent of its $15 million budget from private sources—individual donations, grants, gifts and special events. The rest is from the patient fees, governmental grants, and reimbursements from Medicaid, Medicare, Medical Assistance Program, Texas Women's Health Program, and CHIP.

How do the clinic’s costs compare to emergency room services?

People’s Community Clinic serves the entire Central Texas community by providing a medical home to people who would otherwise use the emergency room for primary care treatment of serious and chronic illness. A visit to the clinic costs one-fourth the cost of an average trip to an emergency room. Data analyzed in 2007 by an independent researcher from University of Texas at Austin showed that new People’s Community Clinic patients used the ER nearly 33% less frequently than they did in the year prior to becoming clinic patients. Aside from providing cost savings to the entire Central Texas community, reduced emergency room use means emergency resource are available to treat patients with true medical emergencies.

Who are the clinic’s major donors?

The clinic receives strong support from the St. David’s Foundation and from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, as well as many other regional foundations. We also receive funding from Central Health.

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