Improving the health of Legacy patients

By India Ogazi

The TMC Health Policy Institutes’ recent symposium, “Reducing the cost of health care: Current innovations and future possibilities,” brought insurance companies and health care and policy leaders together to explore some tough topics in health care today.

Speakers explained how our current health care system works, noting flaws and highlighting current innovations toward improvements, such as disease prevention and restructuring health care delivery.

“Many of the recommendations that were made are in line with current initiatives at Legacy,” says Legacy Community Health’s chief medical officer Dr. Ann Barnes, who was in attendance. Barnes was recognized by speaker George Masi, president and CEO of Harris Health System, for her previous work addressing food deserts. Food insecurity remains a focus of Barnes at Legacy.

“We are currently working to screen our patients for food insecurity to help identify needs and improve patient nutrition,” she says.

Food insecurity exists when consistent access to healthy food is limited by a lack of money and grocery stores. Without proper nutrition, patients are at-risk for chronic diseases, including diabetes, hypertension and cancer.

Another TMC recommendation that Legacy has already put in place is integrating behavioral health care with primary care services. At its Montrose and Baytown locations, Legacy patients can see both a primary care physician and mental health specialist during the same visit. Addressing underlying behavioral health needs improves patients’ ability to take care of their other acute and chronic medical needs as well, Barnes explains.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to improve our patients’ health outcomes, not because it’s a policy mandate, but because it’s the right thing to do for our patients,” she says.

Dr. Barnes is also an executive advisory committee member for the TMC Health Policy Institute.