Ohio State, Heart of Ohio partner to improve health care for vulnerable populations

HeartOfOhioStory-patientanddoctorThe Ohio State University College of Medicine and Heart of Ohio Family Health have cultivated a new partnership centered around their shared missions to elevate the health of the community.

With their common goal in mind, the two organizations began meeting in late 2021 to consider opportunities to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable populations in central Ohio. One of the first health functions they held together was a partnership event with the The Ohio State University Colleges of Optometry and Dentistry to provide vision and dental screenings for 80 scheduled patients. They accommodated walk-ins and ended up seeing 145, including one patient with retinal detachment who was sent to the emergency department to be admitted for surgery to prevent blindness.

Heart of Ohio Family Health is a nonprofit health care provider and Federally Qualified Health Center that serves nearly 18,000 patients at six clinics around central Ohio.

Together, this collaboration has not only led to improved health for those they treat, but also to better communication and connectivity between patients, primary care providers and specialists. With the help of a substantial grant from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Heart of Ohio has transitioned to the Epic electronic medical record system, allowing its providers to better communicate with other health systems in central Ohio.

Mohammed_Buhari_720x720“It’s ideal to have Epic – what local hospitals are using – so that when patients are referred, we are all in sync, and we are able to clearly see a patient’s history of care,” says M. Buhari Mohammed (pictured at right), MD, MBA, CEO for Heart of Ohio.

Adopting Epic allows Heart of Ohio to see patient lab results, imaging studies and emergency department visit details from any hospital in central Ohio, including Ohio State. When patients at Heart of Ohio require specialized care, the Epic system also provides an avenue for Ohio State specialists, such as cardiologists or endocrinologists, to connect with them quickly and virtually.

This arrangement also works in reverse: It allows Ohio State to connect patients who come to our emergency departments with primary care providers at Heart of Ohio for routine care.

“We’re intensely focused on health equity at Ohio State, and this partnership with Heart of Ohio is one example of how we can reach out and help vulnerable populations,” says L. Arick Forrest, MD, MBA, medical director of Ambulatory Services for the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and vice dean of Clinical Affairs at the Ohio State College of Medicine. “By aligning our two missions, we hope to enhance the quality of care in the community.”

The two organizations also plan to embed Ohio State specialists at Heart of Ohio care centers part time to help bridge gaps between referrals and specialty appointments. In 2022 alone, there were more than 1,500 specialist referrals.

“Removing these barriers to specialized care is particularly important for patients in vulnerable, underserved communities,” Dr. Mohammed says. “To see a specialist can be an overwhelming experience for a patient. This partnership will help our patients feel comfortable seeing new doctors in a safe environment that they already know and trust. “

The partnership also provides an opportunity for our College of Medicine students to get more hands-on community experience.

“Growing the relationship between Ohio State and Heart of Ohio offers important learning opportunities,” Dr. Forrest says. “Our students understand how important it is to help people during a time of need. This partnership embodies the passion and empathy that we need our learners to embrace as they go through their training.”

Explore more stories of innovation, clinical care, education and community outreach at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.