The lobby of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Health Center in south Houston is bustling with doctors conferring with patients. It's one of the busiest medical clinics in Harris County. Center director Carolyn Bell says the facility truly represents Harris Health System.
"We are more than the hospital. We are community focused, preventive focused. We are integrated in through all of the communities. so we are a system with a common goal and a common message."
Most of the state's public health systems made similar changes, to emphasize their affiliations with local medical schools and shed their image as government entities. Harris Health System has been taking care of ambulatory patients for decades, but MLK Health Center director Dr. Shelley Manning says it's more than just an emergency trip to one of its hospitals, like Ben Taub.
"We have had community clinics for years, and we have been focusing on preventative care, on healthy living, and we become a medical home. Our clinics are all level 3 medical homes. And that means that we center our care on the patient. The doctor leads the medical treatment and leads the team, along with a whole group of health providers."
When Harris Health System was proposed more than a decade ago, the effort died after county commissioners told president and CEO David Lopez to focus on fixing the district's finances first. He says the name change should have happened then.
"We have all kinds of services, way beyond what our name describes. When we say Harris County Hospital District, it sort of implies that we're hospital dominant. But we provide over 45,000 admissions every year, but over 1.5 million outpatient visits every year. So we're more than a hospital system.We feel the name Harris Health System, greatly describes us in a better way."
He says the new name and the opening of a new outpatient clinic for imaging and specialty physician services later this month, are key to Harris Health System's goal of retaining patients covered by Medicaid or private insurance under health care reform or other market changes.