Neighborcare Health

Seattle-based Community Health Center Uses RingCentral to Continue Providing Care During COVID-19
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Because RingCentral made it so easy to get our team up and running on their system as COVID-19 broke out, I’d say they didn’t just help us — they helped hundreds of patients.

Maxime Al-Izzi

IT Director, Neighborcare Health

As healthcare costs rise, the most vulnerable in society find it increasingly difficult to access care. Fortunately for the residents of Seattle, there’s Neighborcare Health.

It would be difficult to overstate how important Neighborcare Health’s work has been to the Seattle area over the last 50 years. Each year the community health center provides medical, dental, and behavioral-health services for 75,000 people who would otherwise have difficulty accessing care—low-income families, fixed-income seniors, immigrants, and the homeless. And although they ask patients to pay what they can, Neighborcare Health never turns a patient away.

The nonprofit organization’s hundreds of dedicated medical and administrative employees operate nearly 30 nonprofit medical, dental, and school-based clinics. Their care teams speak more than 50 languages and dialects, further ensuring that anyone—wherever they’re from, whatever their resources—receives the care they need.

But in early 2020, Neighborcare Health faced two challenges that threatened to undermine its operations—and the vital services its staff provides to the community.

A double dose of IT-communication challenges

Neighborcare Health’s on-prem phone system was already showing its age and reaching capacity limits. That led to dropped calls, patients encountering busy signals when they called one of Neighborcare Health’s facilities, and other phone-related problems. Upgrading the system without breaking it would require time and thoughtful planning. “We can’t function without reliable phone service, and this was affecting our patient population,” recalls Maxime Al-Izzi, IT Director.

But as the organization began looking for a solution to its phone problem, a new and even more immediate challenge emerged: COVID-19. Neighborcare Health operates more than a dozen small clinics within schools in underserved areas. These clinics typically have Nurse Practitioners providing medical services to students, and behavioral professionals offering mental-health services. Because schools were among the first institutions ordered to shut down due to the pandemic, Neighborcare Health’s staff at these school-based clinics needed a way to transition immediately to offering care from home.

Thanks to RingCentral, we’re equipping our medical and behavioral health staff to be fully mobile. And that means they can stay connected to patients and each other wherever they are, and wherever their care is needed.

Mark Kholdi

Lead Technical Analyst,  Neighborcare Health
Seattle, WA

RingCentral enables Neighborcare Health’s continued work through COVID-19

When they signed up for RingCentral’s cloud communications platform, Neighborcare Health’s IT team found a way to solve the organization’s most pressing concern: keeping its school-based behavioral health professionals connected to the students and families who needed their help during the coronavirus lockdowns. In fact, RingCentral solved two related challenges.

The first challenge: enabling these health professionals to continue offering face-to-face counseling for students with emotional, behavioral, and social issues. “RingCentral puts the whole communications ecosystem onto a simple app,” says Mark Kholdi, Lead Technical Analyst. “That meant our behavioral professionals could call a family to schedule a session, send a text message with the meeting link, and then run the session as a video conference.”

The other challenge Neighborcare Health faced was keeping patient communications confidential. Because they’re using the RingCentral app, the organization’s staff can place and receive calls and SMS texts on the app using only their business line—which keeps all of these communications under the secure RingCentral system.

As Maxime explains: “When our staff calls a patient, and that patient calls them back… whether they speak or the patient just leaves a voicemail… we know those communications are all going to be in our system, under our control. That helps us address the HIPAA compliance issue.

Providing care everywhere — even under a bridge

Nor are schools the only places where Neighborcare Health’s staff have had to transition to a more flexible communications platform to continue providing care. The organization offers health services wherever people in its community need help—including homeless shelters, on the streets, even under bridges.

“Thanks to RingCentral, we’re equipping our medical and behavioral health staff to be fully mobile,” Mark explains. “And that means they can stay connected to patients and each other wherever they are, and wherever their care is needed.”