ECCO, MUSC and Roper St. Francis unite for new initiative

  • Tuesday, July 22, 2014

East Cooper Community Outreach (ECCO) announces Partners in HealthCare, a new initiative serving low-income, uninsured adults that offers access to health care at no cost to the patient. In collaboration with the Medical University of South Carolina's College of Nursing and Department of Family Medicine, and Roper St. Francis Healthcare, the program focuses on treatment and management of low-income residents living east of the Cooper River, with diabetes, hypertension and associated conditions of hyperlipidemia, obesity and tobacco usage.

Almost 20 percent of tri-county residents lack health insurance, the majority of which are living below the poverty line. This population comprises the typical demographic of ECCO's client base and represents thousands of individuals in need of regular medical care. Data from client surveys revealed that the poor are unlikely to consume their medications as prescribed and often don't understand their medical conditions or have access to the resources that are necessary to improve their health. In order to better address these issues, ECCO approached MUSC's College of Nursing (CON) for help providing a consistent source of medical care for clients with chronic disease and associated conditions.

The Partners in HealthCare practice started serving patients last month and will continue to operate on Wednesday evenings at ECCO's 14,500-square-foot facility on Six Mile Road in Mount Pleasant. Roper St. Francis Healthcare supported the program with a grant that will allow ECCO to send patients for laboratory tests and radiology procedures at no cost to the individual or the organization. Launching the Partners in HealthCare program was made possible through the generosity of a few key funders and the hard work of ECCO board member Dianne Schuler and the associate dean at MUSC's CON, Dr. Deborah Williamson. Schuler, a retired registered nurse said, “One of our biggest focuses is helping our ECCO clients better understand their condition and prescribed medications.” Schuler continued, “Our goal is to improve the health of our community one patient at a time.”

The mission of Partners in HealthCare is ultimately to benefit the patients in need but also offers educational opportunities for future nurse practitioners. The program is staffed by four CON faculty nurse practitioners who diagnose and treat patients, and are supported by two CON faculty members who manage student integration and the coordination of care for clients. CON students work alongside MUSC's distinguished faculty to gain the hands-on practice and knowledge that is critical for nursing professionals in today's complex health care system. Lauren Walden, a third-semester student pursuing her BS in nursing, recently followed two patients with Nurse Practitioner Durham and commented, “Last night I had an amazing clinical experience at ECCO. Not only was I lucky to have an amazing educational experience, I loved the whole environment.”

The new initiative falls under the umbrella of ECCO's Health Services program, which includes the dental clinic, emergency prescription medication assistance, health education and wellness classes, and ongoing support through case management. The goal of Health Services of ECCO is to encourage and empower clients to achieve a long-term, systemic change in lifestyle and focuses on personal health responsibility. The addition of Partners in HealthCare expands ECCO's capacity to serve clients in a more comprehensive way through continuity of care. Dr. Williamson said, “Our team of nurse practitioners strives to engage the clients through building relationships and trust.”

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