Sheridan Health Services, which operates two clinics in the low-income Denver suburb of Sheridan, offers a holistic, integrated model of health care (or in the vernacular of the field, a Patient Centered Medical Home) most American health care consumers would have to piece together independently or with the help of their family doctor.
Sheridan’s integrated health care model means that not only does it provide basic primary care, it also offers nutritional counseling, and mental health and substance abuse treatment through the CU School of Medicine’s Addiction Research and Treatment Services (ARTS), also located at Ft. Logan. Dental services from the CU SmileMakers Mobile Dental Clinic are provided by grant funding sought in partnership between the CU College of Nursing and the School of Dental Medicine.
Sheridan has also established a number of continuity of care agreements with hospitals and Doctor’s Care, making it possible for Sheridan to more easily refer patients for specialized care as well as receive reciprocal referrals from hospitals. University Hospital, Swedish Medical Center, Littleton Adventist Hospital, and Children’s Colorado Hospital are among the health facilities with which Sheridan has memorandums of agreement. The idea is to ensure a seamless transition of care, Schwartz explains, in both directions.
“You cannot exist in silos anymore,” says Erica Schwartz, who is also an assistant professor at the College of Nursing. “You have to work collaboratively with specialties in various systems, fostering growth and unification to form a network that provides quality care. That is how healthcare will be provided in the future.”
There are no preconditions for using Sheridan Health Services, so it attracts patients beyond the immediate community. Allegra Melillo, MD, the newly appointed Chief Medical Officer at Sheridan and an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the CU School of Medicine, observed that patients come from as far away as Bailey. “There’s such great need for community health centers,” she explains. “They are so overtaxed and the waitlists are very long. Many have nine month wait lists. We can see them in less than a week.”
Just 11-months into its expansion, the center currently serves 1,300 patients, the vast majority of whom are Medicaid, Child Health Plan Plus-covered or uninsured. That number will expand if Sheridan receives its Federally Qualified Health Center Look-alike designation, which would entitle the centers to higher reimbursement rates from Medicare and Medicaid—and, possibly, enable the further integration of pharmacy services.
“What makes these centers unique is that they are nurse-managed,” Schwartz explains. “There is an essence of compassion and a holistic approach to wellness that emanates from the care rendered. We are one of 10 sites in the nation that received funding to start a nurse-managed health care center. There are not that many in the nation.”