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SPECIAL REPORT 2020

THE REGION’S BUSINESS MAGAZINE

EL RIO HEALTH

50 YEARS OF CARING


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HealthOn University

PHOTO: BRENT G. MATHIS

Southeast Health Center

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El Rio Health

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By Mary Minor Davis When former President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “war on poverty” in the late 1960s, federal grants were made available for health centers. Tucson jumped at the opportunity. Using these funds, the first nonprofit El Rio Neighborhood Health Center opened in 1970 on the west side. It served 10,000 patients in its first year. Now, 50 years later, the healthcare organization has grown to include 12 locations throughout Tucson and serves nearly 110,000 patients – in all facets of medical, dental and behavioral healthcare. El Rio Health is a national model, not only for community health centers, but in the healthcare industry as a whole. Its commitment to improving the health of the entire community has created an integrated patient-delivery system that not only optimizes patient safety, but also drives costs down. Nancy Johnson, El Rio CEO, said El Rio’s growth is the result of a singular focus on the organization’s mission, and the compassionate care for which it is known. “It’s exciting to see the growth and to see people realize that this model is not just for the most vulnerable populations,” she said. In fact, more than 70% of El Rio’s

patients have health insurance. Over the years, El Rio has blazed a trail, offering healthcare innovations and services long before others. Nearly from the start, El Rio has offered extended hours to better accommodate work schedules. More recently, it implemented a state-of-the-art software system that ensures patient data is available in real time to providers.

Looking ahead, I think we’re going to see more direct contracts and partnerships with employers. –

Nancy Johnson CEO El Rio Health

Johnson said there are many benefits that come from this real-time clinical care system. “From a cost perspective, providers can see what tests have already been completed – avoiding duplication for diagnostics. It helps track prescriptions and other prescribed care, which ensures patient safety.” Carlos Rico, El Rio CFO, recently joined El Rio after working many years for Ventana Medical Systems, now Roche Tissue Diagnostics, in Oro Valley. He was drawn to the organization because of its focus on its mission. Now, he’s involved in its continued growth. “When you’re locally based, you can be available, you can utilize resources collectively and be more nimble when changes are needed,” Rico said. “We believe we have the best care model anywhere and we want everyone to experience that.” He acknowledged that, as the organization grows, El Rio will need to adapt. A key focus of the El Rio Health board of directors is to look at each of El Rio’s services and identify the most profitable areas, while finding ways to support less-profitable areas critical to El Rio’s mission of providing quality continued on page 150 >>>

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El Rio Senior Leadership pictured from left – Kenneth Sand, Tara Radke MPH, Josh Carzoli PharmD, George Toy, Dr. Greg Raglow, Nancy Johnson RN, Dr. Doug Spegman, Brenda Goldsmith, Mark Hodges RN, Carlos Rico, Rajiv Sehgal Winter 2020

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BizHEALTH Residency programs in medical, pediatric, general dentistry, as well as family nurse practitioners

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PHOTO: BRENT G. MATHIS

care for patients. He pointed to El Rio’s Cost of Care Dr. Douglas Spegman project as key to these efforts. “Are there differences? Should there be? There is now a lot of data, but the challenge is determining the right data to invest in gathering and extracting,” he said. Rico added that El Rio has been tracking these costs for some time, but it is now more important than ever to answer the value questions. “We know the cost of healthcare continues to rise at rates that are not sustainable,” he said. “We can’t control or change that on a macro level, so we’re focusing on what we can control. It will change at some point, and when that happens the industry will be seeking answers from those who are doing it right, and we

TIMELINE 1968

With urging from Barrio residents, El Rio is founded with the help of Dr. Herbert Adams of the UA Medical School.

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1970

Thanks to federal and county funds, El Rio opens the first site at the Mother Higgins Building. Although designed to serve 20,000 patients, demand exceeds capacity. Staff: 50. Budget: $500,000.

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1975

A new 35,000 square foot medical facility is built at 839 W. Congress.

1980

In an attempt to make care more accessible to patients, El Rio starts its own health care plan, a financial risk that does not pay off.

1985

Board decides to file for bankruptcy and reorganize. With newly hired executive director Robert Gomez, they turn the organization around.

1991

El Rio builds a second building at the Congress site for pediatrics and dental services, with funding from Angel Charity for Children.

1993

El Rio develops a strong partnership with the Pascua Yaqui Tribe that includes opening a site on the reservation.

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meet the healthcare dently in a clinical setneeds of surroundting. Spegman said more Greta Gill, El Rio’s ing rural commuresident practitioners will Director of Midwifery be an important resource nities,” Spegman to meet the primary care needs of the said. All residency programs are accredited individually, and Spegman ancommunity. ticipates El Rio Health will be the first “The response to the program demnational program to receive accreditaonstrates how nurse practitioners are searching for this type of opportunity, tion by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education in 2020. and they are seeing the need for more El Rio has also launched Arizona’s medical training,” Spegman said. “We first nurse practitioner residency procan’t do it without them.” gram in partnership with Arizona State El Rio’s nurse practitioner residency University. The program received approgram also is addressing the critical plications from students from all over shortage of maternity practitioners, the nation. Six students were selected especially in rural areas. “More than for the first class, including students 50% of the counties in the United who will work at El Rio’s sister centers States have no access to maternal care, in Nogales and Marana after complemeaning care is 50 miles or more from tion of the residency program. home,” said Greta Gill, El Rio’s direcNurse practitioners receive broad tor of midwifery. medical training and practice indepenEl Rio has partnered with other

TIMELINE continued on page 152 >>>

1995 El Rio opens a new Southwest Medical site on Valencia Road.

PHOTOS COURTESY EL RIO HEALTH

want to be one of those providers that is doing it right.” As the organization looks to the future, partnerships throughout the community are central to El Rio’s master plan. About 10 years ago, El Rio began exploring becoming a teaching health center. Dr. Douglas Spegman, El Rio’s chief medical officer, oversees this initiative, which includes residency programs in medical, pediatric, adult and pediatric dentistry, as well as family nurse practitioners. It provides clinical training and chronic care management, but also emphasizes preventative care and wellness. Spegman said the residency in family medicine has expanded and is now part of the first-ever community health center national family residency program in the state of Arizona. “This allows residents to utilize the resources of urban centers to help

2001

El Rio Foundation hires its first executive director & assembles a Foundation Board charged with raising philanthropic support and public awareness.

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2004

El Rio opens new Southwest Dental and Northwest Medical sites. Kathy Byrne replaces retired CEO Robert Gomez & Brenda Goldsmith replaces Jane Chittick as executive director of the Foundation.

2006

El Rio acquires El Pueblo Health Center. Begins process of transitioning to electronic medical records across the organization.

2007

El Rio partners with the Birth & Women’s Health Center.

2009

2010

El Rio opens first ever “green clinic” in in Southeast Tucson and breaks ground on a new El Pueblo building. Nancy Johnson joins as COO.

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El Rio opens its new El Pueblo Health Center (50,00 sq. ft.).

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continued from page 51 community healthcare providers to offer more robust maternal care services to patients. Although the practice of midwifery has individually been at El Rio since 1976 and at Tucson Medical Center (TMC) since 1982, the two organizations recently teamed up to create one of the first collaborative birth centers in the U.S., providing midwifery and obstetrics on the same hospital campus. “A birth center is a place to practice midwifery, while labor and delivery in a hospital is for the practice of obstetrics,” Gill said. “What we wanted to do was create a place where both practices can be available. We want to provide the best care for mom, based on her needs and preferences. This is the modernization of an ancient profession.” Most pregnancies are low-risk, and Gill said there is a lot of research that

shows low-risk pregnant women who have access to midwife services have healthier outcomes. Those include nearly 50 percent fewer c-sections, higher breast-feeding rates, more fullterm deliveries and earlier releases from the hospital. Gill said midwifery births in Arizona have doubled in the last 10 years. “But, while there is an increase in women wanting midwifery, there is a decrease in women choosing out-ofhospital birth, so this model provides a place for women to have both,” Gill said. As El Rio serves more patients, it has expanded its number of health centers to ensure that care is close to patients. This includes the El Rio/TMC partnership HealthOn Broadway, which provides variety of health services for those living and working in the down-

town Tucson area. One unexpected service that has grown with this health center is workforce services, including pre-employment physicals and occupational healthcare. “We started by sending our own employees there, and we got more and more requests from downtown employers,” Johnson said, noting that El Rio has worked to provide programs and services for several companies and organizations – Tucson Electric Power, Hotel Congress, Caterpillar, Pima Community College and Pima County, to name a few. “The partnership we have with El Rio Health has been great over the years,” said Jan Lesher, chief deputy county administrator. “We’ve collaborated with them for back-to-school immunization events, flu shot clinics, and on our public health work in continued on page 154 >>>

TIMELINE 2011

El Rio Birth & Women’s Health Grand Opening New Location.

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2013

Northwest Dental Grand Opening New Location.

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2014

El Rio Congress Grand Opening new Robert Gomez Building. Nancy Johnson replaces retiring CEO Kathy Byrne.

2016

The Manning House Grand Opening (Re-locate 250 employees downtown).

2017

HealthOn Broadway Grand Opening with TMC.

2019

El Rio Cherrybell Grand Opening (50,000 sq. ft.).

2020 HealthOn University Grand Opening with with TMC, opening January 2020. Expanded El Rio Southeast (40,000 square feet) Grand Opening, Feb. 2020. 50th Anniversary Celebration, April 18, 2020 at Congress Health Center.

PHOTOS COURTESY EL RIO HEALTH

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El Rio Health is very open-minded and thinks outside of the box. We’re always talking about ways that we can work together to bring healthy activities to the downtown. –

Kathleen Eriksen, President & CEO, Downtown Tucson Partnership

continued from page 152 the community.” Lesher added that El Rio recently held 22 vaccination events, during which it administered 2,455 flu shots. More than half of those were given to Pima County employees. “Thanks to this partnership with El Rio, we‘re protecting the health of our employees, their families and the larger community,” Lesher said. Kathleen Eriksen, president and CEO of Downtown Tucson Partnership, recently partnered with El Rio for the organization’s Healthy Feet on the Street program. “El Rio provided a podiatrist who

did exams for all of our staff, including blood pressure and health checks,” Eriksen said. “We have 20 safety and maintenance employees who put in a good 10,000 steps in the first few hours on their shift.” “It really provided some health benefits for our staff and a boost in morale,” Eriksen said. “El Rio, and Nancy Johnson in particular, is very open-minded and thinks outside of the box. We’re always talking about ways that we can work together to bring healthy activities to the downtown.” The downtown health center has been so successful that El Rio and TMC opened opened a second loca-

tion, HealthOn University at the new Trinity Building on University Boulevard just east of Fourth Avenue, which began seeing patients in December 2019. “Looking ahead, I think we’re going to see more direct contracts and partnerships with employers,” said El Rio Health CEO Johnson. ”Within the scope of services we provide and the systems we have built around care coordination and population health, we should be able to build some of those preferred networks to keep their employees as healthy as possible while decreasing the cost of care.”

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Cox and El Rio Health share the same strong commitment to the communities we serve In 1970, El Rio Health was one of the first community health centers in the nation. Today, El Rio Health has grown to be one of the nation’s most innovative health care providers with more than 107,000 individuals receiving services at one of its 12 Tucson-area campuses. Congratulations and best wishes for another 50 years in demonstrating how to provide quality, accessible healthcare for all.

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WOMEN WHO LEAD

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BizLEADERSHIP

Q&A with

Nancy Johnson CEO – El Rio Health By Romi Carrell Wittman A chance encounter during a Tucson vacation changed the course of El Rio Health CEO Nancy Johnson’s life. In 1982, Johnson decided to drop in at the University of Arizona’s College of Nursing. Soon after, she met the college’s dean and, not very long after that, she moved to Tucson to take a faculty position at the university. Later, Tucson Medical Center recruited her to work in nursing education and research. In her 15-year tenure at the hospital, she was instrumental in building its health and wellness programs as well as expanding its community networks. In 2009, Johnson joined El Rio Health as its COO and became CEO in late 2014. She brought with her a wealth of knowledge and practical expertise. She holds two master’s degrees – one in nursing from the University of Illinois and another in marketing from the UArizona’s Eller College

Q. What inspired you to become a nurse?

PHOTO COURTESY EL RIO HEALTH

A.

I’m from a family of many healthcare professionals and grew up in healthcare environments, volunteering and working with people. My very first job after graduating from college was in an inner-city hospital in Chicago. I worked in the intensive care unit. It was really my lesson about how so many other factors influence health. I would see many patients repeatedly with hospital admissions and discharges and it became clear the powerful role that education, poverty, employment and basic safety have on www.BizTucson.com

health. It was why I wanted to work more in community health and prevention.

Q. What inspired

you to join the El Rio Health team?

A.

El Rio had been a healthcare consulting client of mine in prior years, so I was very familiar with the organization and its wonderful work in caring for our community. In 2014, El Rio CEO Kathy Byrne decided to retire. My commitment to El Rio’s strategic plan – as well as my passion for health improvement – motivated me to apply for the position. 

of Management. She later earned a doctorate in healthcare administration from the University of Illinois. Over the course of her distinguished career, Johnson has held positions as a clinician, a faculty member in nursing, in business administration and as an administrator. Though her days are jam-packed leading one of the largest federally qualified health centers in the nation, she continues to serve as an adjunct clinical professor at the UArizona’s College of Medicine. In 2016, Johnson received UArizona’s Cecil B. Hart Humanitarian Award, as well as the Distinguished Alumni Award from Illinois Wesleyan University. Johnson took time to answer questions about her passion for community health, what inspires her, and the future of healthcare.

Q.

Q.

In your time at El Rio, of what achievement are you most proud?

What sets El Rio apart from other healthcare providers?

Rio has a 50-year A.years at El Rio Health, A.Elhistory and has reI am most proud of Team During the past 10

El Rio’s creation of fully integrated, comfortable and welcoming health centers, which strongly support patient quality of care and the utmost safety. I’m super proud of the amazing employees and providers that choose to work at El Rio. They’re passionate about our mission and fully focused on optimizing health and quality of life for all members of our community.

mained consistently focused on the mission of the organization. We’re part of the national health center movement, so we share our commitment to provide great healthcare for our communities. I think some of the unique aspects of El Rio include the long tenure of many of our providers and employees, hence providing continuity of care and service for our patients. continued on page 161 >>>

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continued from page 159 Maybe what is most unique is our fully integrated model of care with a single health record for our patients encompassing medical, dental and behavioral healthcare, as well as offering all-inclusive laboratory services, radiology and pharmacies in a single health center campus.

Q.

El Rio has accomplished a tremendous amount over the past 50 years. What is on the horizon for El Rio Health over the next year? The next five to 10 years?

A.the El Rio family. We’ll also settle into our new HealthOn We expect to grow about 5% by adding new patients to

University health center as well as our expanded Southeast Health Center. We’ll continue to focus on improved patient services and clinical operational excellence. In the next five to 10 years, we anticipate more virtual visits for our patients via our telehealth app, more emphasis and knowledge about the health of our patients through data analytics, and continually working on improving the efficiency and cost effectiveness of primary care.

Q.

What makes you excited to go to work each day? What motivates you as a leader?

A.our patients and colleagues. Their commitment to conI’m inspired daily in hearing feedback and stories from

El Rio Health at a Glance REVENUE TREND 1990 – $9,978,264 2000 – $24,371,165 2010 – $79,856,149 2016 – $130,373,911 2017 – $140,165,030 2018 – $148,787,911 2019 – $163,256,083 NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES 2000 – 400 2010 – 800 2016 – 1,047 2017 – 1,295 2018 – 1,324 2019 – 1,395

tinual improvement and innovation is very motivating. I truly enjoy being in the health centers, knowing about 2,000 people are accessing care and services daily, and that our team is contributing to their quality of life and good health.

By The Numbers*

Q.

Ages:

How do you motivate and lead your team? What is your leadership style?

A.to identify those shared visions and collaborative opporI think others see me as a leader who builds relationships

tunities. My senior leadership team would say we have a shared vision about what great primary healthcare should look like for our community, and we strive to provide that for our patients.

Q.

What do you think will be the biggest innovations in healthcare in the coming years?

A.for patients, as well as data analytics to target populations The biggest innovations will be greater use of technology

at risk. In addition, strong support for individuals through families, relationships with healthcare providers, and an investment in healthy community infrastructure will continue to play a powerful role in fostering health, longevity and wellness throughout our entire community.

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Total Patients: 106,920 served

Children 0-17 35,511 33% Adults 18-64 60,604 57% Seniors 65+ 10,805 10% Patient by Insurance Status:

Medicaid Medicare Uninsured Private

54,996 12,912 15,861 23,151

51% 12% 15% 22%

Annual Patient Visits:

429,000+ Annual Patient Visits *2018 UDS DATA

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PHOTO: BRENT G. MATHIS

Photos of Block Party, courtesy of El Rio Vecinos

From left â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Paul Loucks, Past President El Rio Foundation Board, Robert Ramirez, President El Rio Health Board, Kate Calhoun, President El Rio Foundation Board, Enrique Serna, Past President El Rio Health Board, Bobby Bakos, President El Rio Vecinos

PHOTO: BRENT G. MATHIS

Brenda Goldsmith Executive Director El Rio Foundation

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El Rio Foundation Poised to Support El Rio’s Growth

PHOTOS COURTESY EL RIO HEALTH

By Mary Minor Davis

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The El Rio Foundation was founded in 2001 by the health center board members hoping to expand the scope and reach of El Rio Health. At that time, El Rio was one of only a handful of community health centers in the nation to have a dedicated fundraising organization. Since that time, El Rio Foundation has become a national model. Thousands of donors – both individuals and corporations – have contributed more than $22 million via the El Rio Foundation, averaging from $1.3 to $2 million each year. Of every dollar donated, 86 cents remain in the community and and are used directly for patient care. “Contributions help fund programs in the areas of dental, asthma, cancer screenings and treatment, immunizations, children’s literacy, wellness, diabetes care, prenatal care and education, mental health, and support for people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS,” said Brenda Goldsmith, El Rio Foundation’s executive director. “El Rio treats one in 10 patients in the community – and El Rio’s vision is to grow that,” said Paul Loucks, former president of the Foundation’s board of directors. “We’ll be there to help them every step of the way.” The foundation also receives support from El Rio Vecinos, which was created in 2013. Made up of young professionals aged 25 to 39, Vecinos members share a singular goal of supporting El Rio and its mission of serving the community’s healthcare needs. El Rio Vecinos is unique among local professional and philcontinued on page 165 >>> Winter 2020

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In 2019, its signature event, the Vecinos Block Party, raised a record-breaking $116,000. –

Josh Plicht, Past President, El Rio Vecinos

continued from page 163 anthropic groups. While it has networking and social aspects like other groups, its primary focus is to raise money for El Rio’s underfunded programs, which the group votes on each year. In 2019, its signature event, the Vecinos Block Party, raised a record-breaking $116,000, said Vecinos past board president Josh Plicht. “When we put our noses down and set a goal, there’s really not a lot that will keep us from hitting that goal,” he said. “We set a goal to raise six figures and, once we hit that, we kept going and challenging ourselves to raise more.

That’s a credit to everyone in the group and at El Rio.” Kate Calhoun, incoming president of the foundation board, said the foundation is poised to support El Rio’s continued growth. “The health center is growing and so is our support for innovative programs, preventative services and treatment for individuals who need assistance,” Calhoun said. “The foundation is fortunate to have many long-term donors, new contributors, loyal board members and El Rio Vecinos committed to El Rio’s mission.”

Calhoun added that the El Rio Foundation is the first Tucson nonprofit to be accepted into the 2020 Arizona Community Foundation’s Endowment Building Institute. That collaboration will be helpful to the foundation as it works to increase charitable giving and expand its donor legacy program. “As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, we have an opportunity to actively engage those who helped build El Rio Health over five decades and invite new community members to learn about our organization,” she said.

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BizHEALTH El Rio Health Foundation Board Raul Aguirre REA Media Group

Christine Helin Retired

Mark C. Mansfield Tucson Electric Power

Rob Assenmacher CAID Industries

Linda Immerman-Stoffers Retired

Dominic Ortega Retired

Kate Breck Calhoun SMG - Tucson Convention Center

Lars Larson Retired

Anthony Schaefer Long Realty Company

Chris Lawler Nova Home Loans

Tracy Sole de Hoop Hexagon Mining

Alex Levin Levin Risk Management

Griff Straw Griff Straw, CMB

Claudia Levin Community Volunteer

Patricia A. Wallace Retired

Edward Leyba Wells Fargo Bank

Mike Webb Jim Click Automotive

Matthew Gaspari Tucson Federal Credit Union Richard Gregson AssuredPartners of Arizona Joanie Hammond Herzing University Stephanie Healy Cox Communications

Paul Loucks Hecker & Pew

Healthcare For All Ages & Stages Spectrum of El Rio Services • Primary Care • Pediatrics • Family Medicine • Internal Medicine • Behavioral Health • OB/GYN • Midwifery • Dentistry • Pharmacy

El Rio Health Accreditations JOINT COMMISSION

• Laboratory • Radiology

The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies more than 20,000 healthcare organizations and programs in the United States. Joint Commission accreditation and certification is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to meeting certain performance standards.

• 24/7 Nurse Triage

HEALTHCARE EQUALITY INDEX

El Rio Programs of Excellence

El Rio Health is proud to join 418 leaders in the nation in the Healthcare Equality Index (HEI). El Rio Health is the only organization in Arizona to receive a 100% score. In its 12th year, the Healthcare Equality Index is the national LGBTQ benchmarking tool that evaluates healthcare facilities’ policies and practices related to the equity and inclusion of their LGBTQ patients, visitors and employees. The HEI 2019 evaluates more than 1,600 healthcare facilities nationwide.

NATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR QUALITY ASSURANCE (NCQA) NCQA Accreditation measures the following five areas of performance: 1. Staying Healthy 2. Getting Better 3. Living With Illness 4. Access and Service 5. Qualified Providers

El Rio Health is a level 3 accredited medical home.

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• Patient Navigation

• Asthma • Diabetes • Hepatitis C • HIV/AIDS • Pain Management • Prenatal Care • Wellness www.BizTucson.com


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Spring 2016

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PHOTO: BRENT G. MATHIS

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Miguel Rojas

Dr. Herb Abrams

El Rio’s Roots A History of Innovation

Tucson’s neighborhood groups have long proven to be a strong voice for change, especially when they speak collectively. This was especially true in the late 1960s, when westside and southside residents teamed up to call for the creation of a health center to serve their community needs. One Tucson resident in particular rallied for what would eventually become El Rio Health. Miguel Rojas represented thousands of his neighbors right from the start and he continues to do so today, 45-plus years later, as an El Rio board member. The story began in the 1960s when Rojas volunteered with an anti-poverty program serving South Tucson residents. “We did things for seniors and neighborhoods and helped people get jobs,” he said. “We were funded by the 168 BizTucson

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federal government, with about $2 to $3 million. I was chairman of our area, and I did it for about six years.” Rojas’ group was part of a community-area counsel with 12 neighborhood groups that met and discussed concerns they had in common. “We talked to people about issues such as the lack of medical facilities and physicians,” he said. “There were only two or three doctors on the westside then. Most were east of Alvernon.” El Rio Health got its start thanks to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s famous War on Poverty. This initiative funneled millions of dollars into cities across the United States with the singular goal of bringing quality healthcare to all Americans. In 1970, the University of Arizona College of Family and Community

Medicine along with community members secured a grant to start a community health center. The group secured land on Tucson’s westside and got the help of Pima County, which leased an old juvenile detention center to El Rio for $1 a year. Additionally, the University, of Arizona College of Medicine’s community medicine department, directed by Dr. Herb Abrams, had doctors who wanted to practice in areas of need. These doctors were among El Rio’s first medical staff. In October 1970, the first El Rio neighborhood health center opened with a small staff of medical and dental professionals to serve about 10,000 patients. “Johnson got Congress to approve a public health bill that provided funding www.BizTucson.com

PHOTOS COURTESY EL RIO HEALTH

By Christy Krueger


PHOTO COURTESY ROBERT THOMPSON

PHOTO: BRENT G. MATHIS

Frank Valenzuela

Robert Thompson

Former Employee and Longtime Patient By Romi Carrell Wittman

for neighborhood health centers. Now there are 1,500 across the nation taking care of 28 million Americans,” said Nancy Johnson, El Rio Health CEO. El Rio Health obtained federal grants that pushed them forward in both facility growth and services offered. With that funding, El Rio was able to build its own permanent facility at 839 W. Congress St., which was expanded with a new 60,000 square foot health center in 2014. In 1974, Rojas and others signed incorporation papers. One item El Rio still needed was a board of directors. “Federal rules and regulations said we needed community people and experts, such as bankers and lawyers, so we got them,” Rojas said. “They required people from poverty areas to be elected by their own areas to be on the board. I was elected. I’m proud of being involved for over 40 years. And I’m involved because things continue to change. We have a dozen health centers now. It’s progressive.” Frank Valenzuela, a banker at the time, joined the board in 1990 and has served as president, VP and now treasurer, and he’s been an El Rio patient for almost as long. He enjoys the dedication, passion and professionalism of continued on page 170 >>> www.BizTucson.com

Back in the late 1970s, Robert Thompson learned that a local healthcare center was in need of someone with computing experience. That center was El Rio Health and Thompson would one day be named its chief information officer. “I’d taken a FORTRAN class and they hired me,” Thompson said. “Their system was in COBOL, which is an entirely different language. But it took them about six months to get the system up and running and, in that time, I took a class at Pima Community College in COBOL, so I was ready to go.” Thompson has fond memories of his career at El Rio, particularly the early days. “In those days, there was only one building and we had lots of potlucks. If you feed IT people, they never leave,” he joked. He said he was able to build a long, prosperous career at El Rio because healthcare IT is always changing. “There’s always something new, something going on – and there was always good food.” Thompson saw El Rio Health purchase one of the earliest mini-mainframe computer systems in Arizona and he helped the organization become one of the first healthcare centers to adopt computerized billing and reporting. Later, Thompson was integral to El Rio’s move to data centers and the adoption of electronic medical records, an innovation that changed healthcare management. Eventually, he was promoted to CIO, where he was responsible for the growing organization’s complex information technology infrastructure. Thompson retired from El Rio in 2019, but uses its healthcare services as a patient, as do some of his family members. Two of his three children were delivered by El Rio mid-wife Sue Ann Breens. Today, one of his grandchildren is a pediatric patient. “I am proud to share she’s a third-generation El Rio Health patient,” Thompson said. “My family and I have used El Rio Health’s medical, dental and healthcare since I started in 1977. The quality, convenience and full-service healthcare is and continues to be exceptional.”

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BizHEALTH continued from page 168 his fellow board members, as well as the inclusion and ease of being an El Rio patient. “When I became a patient, I saw how accessible it is and how great the quality of care is.” He considers himself a patient advocate with a direct line of communication to the board and El Rio’s leaders. According to Nancy Johnson, 51% or more of board members must be El Rio patients. “If you represent the patients on the board, you need to be a patient,” Valenzuela noted. “If something is not working, we can make recommendations to leadership.” El Rio’s board members, employees and patients have seen many positive changes since its early days. Johnson considered the growth a highly important aspect because it contributes to workforce development. “Not only do we offer affordable healthcare, but El Rio is an economic engine,” Johnson said. “We employ 1,400 people, and over 110,000 people are patients.” For Rojas, some of the greatest changes at El Rio are the addition of

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Not only do we offer highquality affordable healthcare, but El Rio is an economic engine. We employ 1,400 people, and over 110,000 people are patients. –

Nancy Johnson CEO El Rio Health

a program targeted at non-binary patients and an HIV program. “We’re

pioneers for LGBT adults and young adults. We have providers and specialty care.” Rojas said. “Also, our HIV program is recognized nationally for the care we give this special population.” Valenzuela said he believes electronic medical records, the addition of pharmacies, behavioral health services, growth in the number of providers, and integrating all areas of care under one roof are significant achievements during El Rio’s lifetime. Johnson said El Rio is a leader in the model of integrated care. “We offer medical, dental health, vision, women’s care, pediatric, pharmacy, radiology, and preventive care. It’s about keeping people healthier,” she said. She added that it’s about making care convenient by bringing health centers into the neighborhoods and providing flexible hours so patients don’t have to miss work. “Healthcare is all moving in this direction, and we’re proud when people say we like what you’re doing. We often are earning awards for innovation.”

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DESIGN. PRINT. PROMOTE. For over 8 years, Cirrus Visual has supported El Rio Health as a Community Partner with their graphic design, printing and event needs. How can we help you?

520.514.5704 | cirrusvisual.com 601 N. Stone Ave. | Tucson, Arizona

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PHOTO: BRENT G. MATHIS

Rajiv Sehgal El Rioâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s CIO

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Charting the Future Technology and Healthcare By Mary Minor Davis Understanding costs, identifying where services are needed, aligning patient care across provider platforms. Doing this – and doing it well – depends on the quality of data collected and how it’s interpreted. Rajiv Sehgal M.S. E.E., B.TECH. E.E. El Rio’s CIO, has made this a personal mission. Sehgal joined El Rio in July, bringing with him nearly 30 years of global IT experience, including stints in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Sehgal honed his technical expertise by working in a variety of industries, ranging from banking to manufacturing to healthcare. “There is so much data available that can help community healthcare be more preventative than reactive,” Sehgal said. “When you look at census data and overlay patient data, we can develop predictive models to be more ahead of the curve and less reactive. We call this healthcare informatics.” Sehgal’s IT team of 52 is focused on identifying trends in how population and community health interact. They’re also looking at social determinants of health, such as food insecurity, inability to pay for health insurance and living conditions. This data will help the team determine what conditions are prevalent and how El Rio can help with those conditions. “The biggest challenge is being able to serve our patients how they need it, when they need it and how do they need it,” he said. “That is truly patientcentered care.” www.BizTucson.com

To this end, Sehgal said he takes the servicing model down to where the patient is most comfortable, including kiosks, tablets, personal computers and cell phones. “We have these capabilities, but we’re always looking to the next generation. How do we have better communication between providers, healthcare teams, and patients?” The answer for most of these questions will come with the addition of telehealth, he says. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human services, telehealth is the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support longdistance clinical healthcare, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and health administration. Telehealth is becoming more and more popular not only for its convenience and ease of use, but also because many states have expanded reimbursements for this type of care. Sehgal said telehealth not only makes patient care convenient, it can also help drive costs down. El Rio recently launched the service utilizing the technology provided by OTTO Health, a company specializing in virtualvisit technology. “Looking at the next 50 years, we’re going to continue to align around the mission to make sure everyone has access to healthcare,” said Nancy Johnson, El Rio’s CEO. “Telehealth will be

a big part of that. Virtual visits (and) aligning patient data online so that all providers can have real-time access (to that data) will help keep costs in line and provide for safer care.” Geographic information systems (GIS) are another important tool in Seghal’s toolkit. Sehgal’s team is working on a project to map the greater Tucson area, breaking it into smaller quadrants. From there, the team will drill down into specific demographic data for each area. “For example, we know the Grant and Alvernon area has a large immigrant population, low income, and language barriers. From this, we can employ and deploy resources that marry the population health data and identify the needs to be addressed,” Sehgal said. El Rio is using GIS to explore providing better specialty behavioral health services. “When you look at the density of the population, we find that Southern Arizona has a greater need in these areas, trending in the wrong direction,” Sehgal noted. “This informs the services needed in these areas.” Seghal said El Rio is open to adopting and implementing technologies that can be applied in new and innovative ways for healthcare. “We want to buck the trends. We want to be innovative and lead the change,” he said. “If we’re thorough and thoughtful in bringing these things to El Rio, I think we can really make a difference in healthcare for our patients.”

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BizHEALTH El Rio Health Board of Directors Enrique Serna Retired

Paul Haslam DCMA Raytheon Tucson

Kirk Saunders The Diary Corporation

Robert Ramirez Retired

Renee Hernandez University of Arizona

Mary Spoerl Retired

Rocio Galvez-Martinez Wells Fargo

Sandra Leal SinfoniaRx

Hal Strich College of Medicine University of Arizona

Frank Valenzuela Retired

Francisco Muñoz Pascua Yaqui Tribe

Robert Rauh Hinderaker Rauh & Weisman

Melvin “Pete” Reisinger Retired

Brian Flagg Casa Maria

Miguel Rojas Retired

Kathryn Beatty Retired

Andrea Romero University of Arizona

Alec Berens Sterling Investment Management

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Mary Wright Tucson Police Department

(520) 670-3909 • www.elrio.org

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BizTucson Winter 2020 Special Section El Rio Health  

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