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Marcia M. Wharton, MD and the Molina Medical Group team are reimagining all that an outpatient clinic can offer for patients in South Everett.
Throughout her career as a family practice physician, which included serving as medical director of the Providence Everett Healthcare Clinic and as a board member for Project Access Northwest (2011–2017) and other community health organizations, Marcia M. Wharton, MD has developed a deep understanding of her patients and the many obstacles they must overcome to obtain health care. Most are low income; many are uninsured. Some are homeless; some struggle with addiction or mental illness. Almost all need help understanding what services are available and how best to access them.
So when she got the opportunity to assist in transforming the way health care was delivered in Molina Medical Group’s only outpatient clinic in Washington State, she jumped right in.
In her role as Associate Medical Director for Washington state outpatient clinics at Molina Medical Group, Dr. Wharton has been working with her staff and the team at Molina Healthcare to redesign the care delivery model to create a welcoming, patient-centered health care home, with comprehensive care on site—from social work and mental health services to primary care and chronic disease management.
“When our patients come here, we want them to feel that this is their medical home,” explains Wharton. She hopes the clinic will one day be a one-stop shop for most patients, or at least serve as a central touch point for patients who may need additional mental health treatment or support from other partner agencies. She is still working on recruiting the mental health staff that is necessary to deliver Integrated Behavioral Health Services at the Everett MMG clinic. “We need to find a Social Worker who is willing and able to work side by side with primary care providers to help connect our patients to the care and services they need to access in the community.”
“Patients sometimes feel like no one wants to help them. They fear that providers judge them,” she adds. “We want to provide care in a way that works best for the patient and makes them feel cared for.”
Beyond creating a welcoming environment at the clinic, Dr. Wharton plans to partner with Molina Healthcare colleagues to send patient navigators to seek out their patients in need in the community and try to solve their most urgent needs first, before trying to engage them at the clinic. These needs range from housing or food stamps to addiction treatment or mental health services. They are also looking at innovative transportation options to help patients get to their clinic or specialty appointments.
“The model of care really needs to focus on putting the patient at the center of the care plan and figuring out what that particular person’s needs are,” Wharton explains. “Often that means focusing first on the social determinants of health by addressing the most basic survival needs: food, clothing and shelter.”
“It may be that they need to be moved from the tent that they live in under the overpass to more permanent housing, they may need food stamps, addiction medicine services, and they may need mental health care. They may be covered by Medicaid but not really understand what that means,” she adds.
“It’s providing care in a completely different way than what we’ve done traditionally, which we know, for many patients, doesn’t work.”
In addition to her work in South Everett, Dr. Wharton is working with Molina counterparts to identify innovative ways to increase access to care in other underserved areas in Washington state. This may lead to more clinics like the one in South Everett or the addition of delivery models that allow Molina to provide care to patients in more remote areas.
Molina Medical Group is a critically important partner in our mission to open doors to quality health care for low-income individuals — as it both receives referrals for primary care and sends referrals for specialty care.
Through the Hospital Inpatient Discharge Program at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Project Access Northwest places many low-income uninsured and Medicaid patients who are soon to be released from inpatient care into follow-up primary care appointments within 12 days of their discharge. This program is designed to reduce the incidents of follow-up care taking place in the emergency department and to reduce the number of readmissions to the hospital for the same health issue.
Project Access Northwest also partners with Molina Medical Group by helping its patients receive specialty care services. Molina Clinic can refer patients to Project Access Northwest to be seen in any of our more than 40 specialties.