Primary Care

Here's what's happening in health in Rhode Island:

Erica Smith / Flickr

Johnson and Wales University has graduated Rhode Island’s first home grown class of physicians assistants. 

A physician’s assistant is like a cross between a doctor and a nurse. He or she can do much of what a doctor can do and prescribe medication. But a PA works under the supervision of a doctor and trains for just two years after college.

Welcome to Central Falls sign
RIPR file

A new healthcare effort in Central Falls is getting a boost. A program called the Neighborhood Health Station has won a grant to pay for outreach workers to prevent overdose deaths and reduce emergency room use.

Wikimedia Commons

The University of Rhode Island has taken a rare step to create a new college focused on health care. They're calling it the College of Health Sciences and say it will join together programs like physical therapy, sports science, gerontology and psychology.

The university plans to hire a new dean to lead the new College of Health Sciences,  which will join the colleges of Pharmacy and Nursing under the umbrella of an Academic Health Collaborative.

Kristin Gourlay

Rhode Island is entering the second year of a program that repays medical school loans for doctors in underserved areas. The program, which is also open to nurses, aims to attract more doctors to the places that need them the most.

Last year, applicants won an average of $40,000 in repayments for agreeing to serve two years in a needy community. Rhode Island Health Center Association CEO Jane Heyward says the program is attractive to medical school graduates with huge loan debts. But it could be a boon for community health centers, too.

Rhode Islanders with Medicaid coverage may have a more difficult time finding a doctor. And every obstetrics and gynecology practice in the state has a waiting list. Those are just two of the findings in a massive survey just completed by the state’s health department.

RI Dept. of Health

Rhode Island may not have enough primary care doctors to meet the need. That’s one conclusion from a major survey of the state’s health care inventory. Another conclusion: mental health resources are lacking.   

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

A large medical practice is being recognized for its effort to save money and improve patient care. Coastal Medical has earned recognition from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

The high rating comes for Coastal Medical’s shared savings program, a new model of paying for health care under Obamacare. Here’s how it works: Coastal Medical has contracts with several health insurers that say, 'if you keep patients healthier, and save us money, we’ll split the savings with you.' 

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island’s Community Health Centers have gotten a couple of funding boosts this week. The funds are intended to expand access to primary care and dental care.

Thundermist Health Center in Woonsocket will receive $1 million dollar federal grant to add exam rooms and hire more primary care doctors. 

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

I wish I could be in two places at once. This Friday, two health policy-related conferences take place simultaneously in Warwick. Here's a bit more about each, and why the issues they're covering matter to Rhode Islanders.

National Institutes of Health

A new $1.6 million dollar federal grant will help the University of Rhode Island train more nurse practitioners. The idea is to help community health centers, in particular, care for more patients.

URI will use the money to hire new teachers and give students more practice in community clinics and patient homes. The goal is to graduate 109 new nurse practitioners in three years.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket has won federal funding to train more primary care doctors. The program is focused on caring for kids in poor communities. And the hope is that trainees will decide to stay on after their residencies. The grant will help residents see more children in the hospital's family medicine clinics, add mental health services, and teach residents more about the social determinants of health.

Rhode Island Public Radio’s Kristin Gourlay joins Elisabeth Harrison in the studio to talk about the growing importance of primary care in the health care industry.

Patient-centered medical homes. Community health teams. Accountable care organizations. Integrated medical and behavioral health care practices. Case management.


Central Falls' community health center is at capacity, officials say, in its current building. Now, Blackstone Valley Community Health Care has acquired a three-story medical building from Memorial Hospital for $720,000 at 1000 Broad St. in Central Falls.

Health center officials say they plan to move in toward the end of 2016, when $5 million dollars in renovations are complete. The new center will be able to accommodate more than 10,000 patients and will add about a dozen new clinicians.

County Health Rankings 2015 / Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has released its annual County Health Rankings, and Rhode Island's counties (Providence in particular) seem to be faring worse than the national average on a few measures, and much better on a few, too.