Venice Family Clinic receives award for innovative Chronic Pain Clinic

October 9, 2008

vfc pico building.jpgVenice Family Clinic (VFC) is a long-standing community clinic with two locations in the Santa Monica and Venice neighborhoods of Los Angeles, California. Many people are surprised to learn that VFC serves a diverse and poor population of Westside adults, women and children. After all, the Westside is far better known for movie people and fine restaurants than it is for underserved and under-insured communities. There are many poor families and individuals living on the Westside for whom VFC is the only provider of quality healthcare, in part because it is a training site for UCLA Geffen School of Medicine healthcare students.
Provider coverage and timely treatment are a common challenge for many community clinics also referred to as “safety-net”. For many people these clinics are the last resort for healthcare. Budgets have razor thin margins and there is tremendous reliance upon providers in training. Physicians “triage” each patient that comes into VFC making a referral to the appropriate “service”. Wait time for follow through is always an issue.hardy_mary.jpg
A pair of forward-thinking integrative physicians at VFC, Myles Spar and Mary Hardy, wanted to test whether referral to treatment might be enhanced with an integrative and innovative Chronic Pain Clinic. “Integrative” is the term that has emerged for describing a blend of mainstream medicine with Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). The two physicians proposed teaming chiropractors, acupuncturists, and an osteopathic doctor with themselves to offer services within the CAM providers’ scopes of practice to VFC patients.chcflogo.jpg
Blending CAM with mainstream medicine is not so unusual. The Wilshire Boulevard corridor in West LA is home to dozens of integrative practices featuring MDs, LAcs and DCs offering a range of remedies. However, the Chronic Pain Clinic at VFC is the first I have been involved with or read about that extends the model to underserved populations.
My role is data management and analysis. Together with the integrative MDs and the VFC administrative team we were able to demonstrate positive outcomes in the first Phase of the project to earn a prestigious LEAP award from the California HealthCare Foundation.
You can read about the award here.
In a recent post I discussed ideas for cross-training acupuncturists to function as extenders to primary care providers and deliver care within the scope of their license. My inspiration comes from 10 years helping develop two USC Physician Assistant degree programs and my experience with the VFC chronic pain program. I am confident cross-trained LAcs can fulfill the triage function reducing the wait period while continuing to deliver quality healthcare to the families and individuals who rely on safety-net clinics for their primary care.
The question of how CAM providers can blend in with mainstream medicine remains open. The VFC chronic pain program is demonstrating one way that benefits patients and the clinics seeking to serve them.

Leave a Reply