Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic presented at the 2018 South Carolina Free Clinic Association (SCFCA) Annual Conference on Tuesday, January 30th, at the Hilton Columbia Center. Clinic Director Brenda Falls and Outreach & Communications Specialist Carrie Moores shared their experiences with community outreach and social media marketing for free clinics, addressing more than 40 free and charitable clinics located throughout South Carolina. The annual conference, spanning two days, aims to “promote and enhance the essential work of free clinics by providing a forum for sharing information about policy, advocacy, clinic and administrative issues, nonprofit management and other pertinent topics.”
Clinic Director, Brenda Falls and Outreach & Communication Specialist, Carrie Moores
Moores stressed that the responsibility of clinics utilizing their social media platforms was to serve as an advocate for the low income, uninsured community – simultaneously raising awareness about free clinic services and also using social justice as a means to draw the community together for action.
“Social media should be a tool to share the narrative of who our patients are, and why we are all in this together as one community – across political divide, social and economic status. We should be an ally to the underserved community and educate our followers on who benefits from free health care – and how everyone can help,” she stated, sharing resources for free clinics to utilize as they develop their mission and clinic identity online.
This year’s conference also included guest speakers such as Julie Darnell, Ph.D. and Professor of Public Health Sciences at Loyola University in Chicago, as well as a panel of community leaders addressing “What If The Free Clinics Were Not There?”
“Free clinics play so many different roles in a patient’s life,” explained panel presenter Erika Kirby, Executive Director of the BlueCross and BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation. “They are a stable place for the individual whose health care needs are not being met,” she continued, adding “Free clinics are so very resourceful for all area services of use for their patients, and a critical role in the system of safety net providers.”
Citing the economic benefits of maintaining free clinics in the community, the panel addressed the cost-effectiveness of free clinic primary care visits over ER visit expenditures.
Mac Bennett, Former CEO and President of United Way of the Midlands, commented, “Free clinics cut in half the number of patients who would otherwise visit the ER. The wrong patients were [using the ER] who could instead use free clinic services – it’s more cost-effective for hospitals and a good thing for the health care system overall.”
Barbara Willm, Vice President of Development and Community Relations at Lexington Medical Center, added, “We have to make sure patients are getting appropriate care at the right level, in the right setting. The ER offers episodic care – patients need a provider who can offer the appropriate care… Free clinics provide a service that a hospital could never provide: they treat the whole patient, not just the symptoms.”
-Submitted by Carrie Moores, BIFMC Outreach & Communications Specialist