Urban Health Initiative snags grant for South Side Rx database

A UCMC grant will increase the hospital’s connections with surrounding communities.

By Stephanie Xiao

The U of C Medical Center (UCMC)’s Urban Health Initiative (UHI) was awarded a $5.9 million federal grant on Tuesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, as part of a contest soliciting proposals for improving public health.

From a pool of over 3,000 proposals for new models and improvements to health care, the UHI was selected as one of 26 winners of the Health Care Innovation Challenge that received from $1 million to $30 million. The prizes went to organizations which sought to bridge the gap between private and public insurance provides, in order to improve access to health care for publicly insured patients.

Founded in 2005, the UHI will use its grant to establish the Community Rx, an electronic database system that will link approximately 200,000 South Side residents to nearby doctors and services.

The grant will allow the UHI to coordinate information about health care resources across the South Side with electronic health records, in order to streamline follow-up health care with “e-prescriptions,” according to Karen Lee, a project manager for the UCMC’s South Side Health and Vitality Studies.

Lee explained that, often, doctors recommend remedies for their patients’ ailments without providing the resources needed to carry out the treatment. By prescribing through the Community Rx database, after a diagnosis, a patient at the UCMC will have an online resource providing information on how and where to go next.

Lee is hopeful that the Community Rx system will both improve health in communities and expand the availability health care resources across the South Side.

“By providing this information to people about places in their community where they can go to stay healthy and manage their disease, we anticipate that this will improve people’s overall health,” Lee said.

She continued: “At the same time, with this local approach in getting people to use resources in their community, it will also help drive community vitality, hopefully bringing more programming to the community that will meet the health needs of the people living there.”

The grant, according to Lee, will bring together a diverse cohort of institutions and organizations, including Northwestern University, Alliance of Chicago Community Health Services, and numerous local clinics, that will work to “help people on the South Side of Chicago stay healthy.”

The UHI functions as a link between the UCMC and community health providers.

Earlier this year, the UHI donated $50,000 to the Community Health Englewood Clinic at West 63rd Street and South Halsted Parkway.