Clinicas del Camino Real: Roberto S. Juarez, CEO

by HCE Exchange on August 19, 2010

In the diverse community of Ventura County, California, Clinicas del Camino Real Incorporated provides a lifeline of critical care to patients who might otherwise go without. Because of savvy management and continual caring, the nonprofit has been able to become a virtual institution of care for the southern California community. With ten locations scattered throughout the county, thirty school-based mental health sites, three mobile clinics and further expansion planned, the health system is poised to become an essential to a future generations of underserved residents.

To understand the significance of the care that Clinicas del Camino Real, Incorporated provides to its community, one only needs to look at the number of services the health system provides. Offering standard medical care, like family practice, obstetrics, oncology, pediatrics, and gynecology, the centers also retains on contract chiropractors, an orthopedic surgeon, neurologist and a heart surgeon. “ We do over 230 deliveries a month, but we also do a tremendous amount of ancillary work, we offer dental, optometry and mental health services, so we provide care that other people don’t,” explains CEO Roberto S. Juarez. He adds that the dental practice is particularly well used and is probably the largest in the county.

Making a Non-Profit Work for the Community

“Because we are a non-profit we don’t get a lot of the credit for our progress and growth, but we have patients who have been with us for several generations coming here for care and they really trust our level of care.” Juarez has been with the organization since its inception, beginning as a volunteer in 1970 and moving up to his current leadership role in September of 1978. “I think it was a $60,000 a year operation when I first started here and currently we are going to hit about a $35 million dollar operation, so it’s a fairly significant sized operation with over 400 staff members.” The organization is integrated with the Department of Health Education and Prevention Programs, which means that the group can also offer preventative care beyond its treatment care. “We don’t have to just tell people ‘come in when you’re sick,’ we can teach them how to stay well at home, we have nutritionists on staff and we have educators on staff, so we can teach people how to stay well and have a better quality of life.” Juarez adds that the combination of comprehensive care and preventative education is what make Clinicas del Camino Real, Incorporated stand out from other organizations of its kind in the area.

Fighting for Equality Through the Years

Clinicas del Camino Real, Incorporated has a storied past rooted in the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. Beginning in 1971, Clinicas was organized during the height of the free clinic movement, a healthcare offshoot of the social revolution that was taking place across the US. Juarez has a thirty-year history with the organization and was part of the founding of many of these clinics, while an employee of the County of Ventura.

Fast-forward to the present day and the clinic is still tackling social issues, only now with different demographics. For Juarez, the culture of the organization and its shared values are features that have sustained the organization and have helped it to grow. “We have a great corporate culture, a great board of directors and everyone is very mission driven to provide affordable services that are sensitive to culture, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation.” Nearly 90% the patients Clinicas sees are farm workers and Spanish speaking. Because of this the vast majority of Clinicas staff speak Spanish and many can relate to the farm workers because their families have been agricultural workers as well.

But besides Latino patients, the clinics are also seeing a variety of other ethnicities and are working to address the needs of each specific group. African American, Asian, Eskimo, Native American, Filipino and Hindu are some of the ethnic groups the clinics serve. “If you want to be culturally competent you need to meet those challenges. We thought it would be a population that would slow but it really hasn’t and we’ve had record years of the number of people we serve. We retain staff members that are fluent in Mixteco, Triki and Zapotec”.

Technology Designed for Clinic Care

Just like hospitals require very specific IT development, a clinic setting also demands cutting-edge software and technologies. One IT similarity is in the employment of electronic medical records. Clinicas has spent 100,000s of dollars upgrading their record system to an electronic format. “We have to keep pediatric records for 19 years and adults for seven years, and we’ve been able to put six years of those records on CDs, rather than have them in boxes. The organization has been working on this process since 2005.  “The electronic medical records are important because having them insures that the quality of care doesn’t drop and we don’t have to repeat tests.”

Although electronic medical recording is important to most health care systems, clinics require special technologies that emphasize disease tracking and ultimately prevention. The program called i2i is a specific software that has been added to track outcomes and currently is operational at three health centers. Clinicas also put in place the NextGen practice management system and PeopleTrack personnel tracking and recording system.

In order to get the most out of these IT investments, Clinicas has just finished construction on a new technology-training center that will offer instruction for employees in everything from email to the aforementioned software investments. “We will be able to provide a tremendous amount of training for our staff, so if they don’t know how to do spreadsheets or email we will train them and make them great employees. It is our hope of course, that these employees will progress through our organization and learn new skills that they can use in their positions here, however even if they choose to leave, this knowledge will also be very transferable for them.”

To further create proactive initiatives, the clinics have added collaborative in the areas of diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular. “These programs are set up so folks are treated properly and we have a special staff that makes sure they take their medications and are properly cared so they don’t fall through the cracks.”

The group’s programs seem to be helping, as the centers have been able to report 100% immunization rates for children, while surrounding centers only can report around 70%. “We are exceeding all those standards and the i2i software is going to be a key tool and we will be right ahead of the curve with a new software that has only been available for a year.”

“In this county we have three major systems of health care between two we do 90% of the Medi-Cal care business in this county. I can say Clinicas offers a health care delivery system that’s probably unrivaled in the state. We are on current pace to break our numbers of visits this year and we continue to grow. In this economy we are seeing more people without money than in previous years. We are here to serve everyone and we are going to continue to do what we’ve been doing and the patients appreciate that and know they can trust and count on us to be there for them.”

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