Volunteer Physicians Linked to Needy Patients in Asheville, N.C.

    • July 11, 2008

Project Access, which provides access to specialty and chronic health care for low-income uninsured people of Buncombe County, N.C., expanded its services from August 1994 through July 1998.

Project Access matched qualifying patients needing specialty physician care or chronic primary care with volunteer physicians through an online database linking county care clinics to a central server at the Buncombe County Medical Society.

Area hospitals provided all needed ancillary services free of charge, and the county paid for prescribed drugs.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) national program Reach Out: Physicians' Initiative to Expand Care to Underserved Americans.

Key Results

  • The project gave approximately 5,000 patient referrals for specialty and chronic care, valued at about $2.5 million per year.
  • Physician volunteers handled another 11,000 acute/episodic patient visits through the community's free clinic.
  • Project Access reduced emergency room use at area hospitals, reducing costs by an estimated $120,000 per year.
  • The project increased the efficiency of county clinics through its online specialty care referrals.
  • The Buncombe County Medical Society estimated the project generated $35 of care from each dollar spent administratively.