The Early History of Partnership Health Centers

In 2004, Briana Forrester, the 17-year-old daughter of Doug and Andrea Forrester, was brought to the hospital by ambulance with excruciating head pain. There, tests revealed an Arterio Venous Malformation, or AVM. Like a brain aneurysm, when an AVM bursts, it creates uncontrolled bleeding which requires immediate, high-risk brain surgery. Briana survived multiple surgeries and struggled a month in a neural intensive care unit. Months of rehabilitation followed. She regained her voice and her spirit grew stronger. Then, in a staggering development, she discovered a lump on her neck. The diagnosis: Hodgkin's disease, the "young person's" cancer.

As Briana received treatments of chemotherapy and radiation, her parents received unfathomable bills from dozens of healthcare providers. Seeking explanations, Andrea would be put on hold repeatedly and faced an army of bureaucrats. Some were indifferent, some incompetent and some tried to be helpful but even they couldn't always penetrate the labyrinth of the healthcare system to resolve problems. Andrea felt like a pawn in a bizarre game whose rules were impossible to understand. Finally, the family gave up and hired a professional accountant to handle bills and be their advocate.

After the emergencies had passed and Briana's life returned to normal, the sense of relief and gratitude was awesome. Yet, among some terrible memories which lingered were ones of confusion and anger of having to deal with incomprehensible bills at the most vulnerable of times. Andrea didn't forget those frustrations and reminded her husband: "Doug, when Briana was sick, you vowed to improve how health plans work. Keep that promise now. No family should have to fight to understand their medical bills as their child is fighting for her life. Medical problems are bad enough, but struggling to figure out health plan coverage and bills at a time like that is just too much. We're lucky; every family should have an advocate, not just us."

Soon thereafter, Doug Forrester founded Integrity Health to bring Partnership Health Centers to employers and their employees. Every Partnership Health Center's goal is to be a health advocate for all its members, to promote access to the care they need and to communicate with them in plain language. We invite you to join Partnership Health Centers, the patient's advocate.

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