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A Qualitative Healthcare Needs Assessment of Patients in an Urban Student-Run Free Clinic

Updated: Apr 19, 2019

Travis Kozak; Amber B. Dunbar, PhD; Lorenzo Sanchez; Brooke Wagen; Brennan Lanier; Brandon Allport, MD

Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin


Introduction: Student-run clinics can provide a healthcare model to bring quality healthcare to underserved populations. However, these clinics are at risk for putting a greater focus on meeting the educational needs of the student providers at the expense of overlooking needs and outcomes that matter most to their patients. The majority of published research on student-run clinics focuses on evaluating experiences of the student providers or clinical process measures rather than focusing on the patients themselves. Understanding patients’ needs is critical to providing the highest quality care and to enhancing the provider-patient relationship. Qualitative research methods are uniquely geared towards understanding the depth of participant perspectives and eliciting information to answer a research question without making any assumptions about the possible outcome. Here we describe a research study using qualitative methods to investigate the needs of a predominately homeless patient population at C.D. Doyle Clinic (CDDC), the student-run free clinic associated with Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin, in order to inform future initiatives to enhance the health of our patients in ways that matter to them most. Methods: Qualitative interviews were conducted with new and returning patients at CDDC, with a focus on the following questions: (1) why do patients come to CDDC?; (2) what needs do patients have related to medical care, mental health care, and social services?; and (3) what gaps in care exist in the current health landscape that CDDC can fill? Interviews were transcribed, and each transcript was coded by two researchers. Data were analyzed using applied thematic analysis. Results: Results from the interviews indicated key areas of need in the areas of medical care, mental health care, and social services that were currently not well-supported by existing resources in the community. Conclusion: These results will guide future initiatives to bridge these gaps in care and to provide higher value care for the patients at CDDC. Additionally, the findings may identify areas for students to create initiatives to enhance patient care while simultaneously promoting student education. These data also contribute useful insight for other clinics that serve a predominately homeless patient population.

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