El Paso Clinic Prescribes Technology for Total Wellness
Cisco's iQ magazine , Special Hispanic Edition 2005
by Vicki Powers
A nontraditional, grassroots health clinic in El Paso, Texas, is bringing not just healthcare but also Hispanic culture and technology into its community. This area's zip code, 79901, represented the third poorest area in the Southwest in the 1960s. Today, its children are receiving excellent technology instruction due to the efforts of progressive community leaders who are dedicated to providing opportunities for the next generation.
In 1967, a group in a low-income El Paso neighborhood—mostly Hispanic single mothers—developed a health clinic in a one-room apartment hoping to provide a brighter future and better lives for their children. They wanted a community health resource that understood their culture, language, and medical needs. This desire for total wellness led them to establish the Centro De Salud Familiar La Fe Clinic, now a nationally recognized community wellness network.
Salvador Balcorta, now CEO at La Fe Clinic, was one of those neighborhood children—brought to the clinic at age 13 by volunteer health workers. The experience unfolded into a life lesson about taking responsibility for, and finding ways to solve, problems in the community.
Today La Fe Clinic relies extensively on technology to manage its operations and deliver services. In the last three years, the clinic has developed a networked system between its eight clinic sites.
Growth has been the driving factor for this change, according to Mark Taylor, a district sales manager for Avnet Enterprise Solutions, an IT solutions integrator. The phone system needed improvements, but an upgrade would have been extremely expensive, so Taylor worked with Balcorta to assess the clinic's growth plans and list of desired new services. Then, during the construction of La Fe's Child and Adolescent Wellness Center, Avnet ran fiber to all the clinic's southeast El Paso locations and linked its existing end-to-end Cisco Systems data network and Cisco IP telephony solutions.
"This system enables La Fe Clinic to keep costs down over the long term by managing its own phone system," Taylor says. "The clinic added a new building without increasing operational costs since it didn't need to add staff to its team."
Grant money from organizations such as the Texas Association of Community Health Centers has helped La Fe fund its technology investments. IBM donated 75 computers for the clinic's technology center.
The clinic is in the process of implementing an electronic medical record system to improve care and enhance physician-patient contact. The networked system "has also assisted in increasing staff productivity," says Antonio Santos, technology director for the Cisco Networking Academy program housed in La Fe's property. "The clinics now have access to e-mail and can collaborate on projects, which reduces the need [for staff] to commute from one clinic site to another."
Through the technology center, La Fe provides computer training to the local community, offering both Internet connectivity and resources for job training.
It was a dream come true for Balcorta when the clinic developed the Child and Adolescent Wellness Center with its innovative health-promotion and disease prevention initiative. The center comprises three major programs—pediatrics, cultural, and technology—using culturally appropriate technology resources. The technology center serves about 65 children per day and has four computer labs-one each for children and adults, one as part of the Cisco Networking Academy, and the fourth as a multimedia graphics room.
La Fe's goal is to incorporate technology with healthcare. Clinic doctors, for example, give children prescriptions to attend the Technology Center; such sessions might include playing an arcade game to learn how to deal with asthma. Likewise, an overweight child might receive a prescription for dance lessons in the cultural center.
The networked technology also enables La Fe to design its own education materials, such as brochures or videos that can be streamed through the facility's network. It partners with the local school district to deliver educational materials by using connectivity between the schools and La Fe.