Rutgers, Quest Diagnostics double capacity at H.O.P.E. Clinic

Grant from medical testing company’s foundation will expand program to provide no-cost lab tests for uninsured adults

Rutgers University School of Health Professions and Quest Diagnostics earlier this week announced they are expanding their collaboration to further improve access to critical primary care services for uninsured patients of the university’s Health Outreach Practice Experience, or H.O.P.E., Clinic in Plainfield.

Resources from the Quest Diagnostics Foundation will enable the clinic to double its capacity by providing primary care services for a second day of the week.

The clinic previously operated one day each week, with Rutgers faculty and physician assistant students seeing patients who are trying to manage acute and chronic diseases as well as critical education on managing their health conditions.

Despite progress in improving access to primary care services, the students and faculty at H.O.P.E. found themselves regularly turning patients away because of high demand and a limited number of appointments available in a single day.

“Quest Diagnostics and the Quest Diagnostics Foundation has shown, yet again, the power of this private-public collaboration in reducing health care disparities in the greater Plainfield community, both through the provision of additional no-cost lab tests to our patients and the financial support needed to expand our clinical services,” Frank Giannelli, director of the H.O.P.E. Clinic and an assistant professor in the physician assistant program at the Rutgers School of Health Professions, said.

Rutgers and Quest initially teamed up last year to provide no-cost laboratory tests to help diagnose and manage acute and chronic diseases. Under the program, clinicians send laboratory orders directly to a nearby Quest Patient Service Center, which allows patients to visit immediately after their appointment.

Quest will continue to offer no-cost lab testing as part of the program expansion, including lab tests for chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, sexually transmitted infections and Lyme disease.

The grant from Quest’s foundation is part of the Quest for Health Equity, or Q4HE, initiative, which provides resources, funding, testing services and education to address health disparities in underserved communities throughout the U.S.

“At Quest, we are rooted in our purpose of working together to create a healthier world, one life at a time, and the joint effort with Rutgers is an example of our purpose in practice,” Michael Floyd, senior director and leader, Q4HE, Quest Diagnostics, said. “Together, we are expanding our efforts to reduce barriers to care in an underserved community. We recognized an opportunity to build on our efforts with the H.O.P.E Clinic to reach more members of the community, and hope that this renewed commitment will help provide better access and, ultimately, better health outcomes.”

“It’s not like a job here. It’s more like a family,” program assistant Jose Gutierrez, who helps people in the community make appointments and get access to health care services, said.

“Treating a patient is more than giving an answer on a multiple-choice test. It’s about getting to know the whole person and choosing a treatment plan that works for them,” said Alexis Espinoza, a third-year physician assistant student from San Diego. “That’s what we learn to do at the H.O.P.E. clinic.”

The H.O.P.E. Clinic, which opened in 2021, provides an essential service to a city where about 30% of residents are uninsured and 39% report not having a primary care provider. It is one of an estimated 1,400 free and charitable clinics in the U.S. that serve about 7 million people annually.