GREAT BARRINGTON >> In the fabric of U.S. health care, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) have a rich history of grass-roots activism, preventive care and public health outreach to the country's most underserved and marginalized patients. Since the 1960s, the number of FQHCs has grown from fewer than a dozen to 1,200, and each has a mandate to provide health care to all, in exchange for more advantageous reimbursements from government programs. In the comprehensive service pie of FQHCs, there are nutrition programs, insurance enrollment programs, family services and a range of other supports not typically provided by traditional medical practices.

Community Health Programs is among the early FQHCs to spring up in the U.S. I was introduced to CHP a year ago and followed its growth, its challenges and its expanding patient service. It is the third FQHC that I have been asked to lead, and I am struck by its ground-up beginnings and by its enduring traditions of leadership in health care.

Dramatic growth

In its early years, CHP was founded, driven and administered by doctors and nurses with the single objective: to care for rural children with both medical and family services. It worked — despite ever-present obstacles facing any organization dependent on federal funds integral for its survival.


Fast forward: CHP has grown to encompass adult care and a wider array of family services, with seven practice sites throughout the county. Additionally, some patients with terrific insurance choose CHP for its excellent providers and care.

Now, as health care has become increasingly shaped by complex business demands, growing pains have forced a more challenging balance between medicine and finances. FQHC decision-making, planning, staffing and practice management must weigh fiscal concerns and care standards together under a much more critical lens.

Given the historical traditions of FQHCs and the changes upon them, it is ever more important for all members of the organization to adapt and support organizational imperatives. It is time to transition from business as usual to a sustainable business.

As CHP's interim CEO my role is to bring alignment and cohesion among medical care, family services and the business of care. CHP's traditions and the need for efficient business standards will guide our work in 2016, and there are key players in the CHP network whose contributions have been, and will continue to be, vital to our success. I am looking to these people and others, to help guide CHP forward.

Collaboration is key

The new health care kaleidoscope puts pressure not only on the financial side of an organization, but also on the providers, who are expected to increase productivity and also maintain quality of care. The economics of health care have made such changes mandatory, not optional. It can be done — with teamwork, communication and transparency as the keys to excellence, stability and health.

Together we will meet the demands of both patient care and needs of growing a sustainable business. Through this collaboration we will be able to honor CHP's roots, meet the requirements of federal standards, embrace business realities, and continue to keep our doors open to a wider patient and client foundation. I look forward to a spirit of collaboration in leading CHP forward.

Lia Spiliotes, a senior partner in Cambridge Management Group, is interim CEO of Community Health Programs. She is a graduate of MIT's Sloane School of Management.