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UC Berkeley Study Reveals WelbeHealth’s Rapid Adaptation To COVID-19 Eldercare Yielded Exceptional Results And Saved Lives

As policy momentum grows toward home and community-based services, study recommends that policy choices focus on the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), and it’s 45-year track record of success in serving the most complex elderly patients.

SILICON VALLEY, Calif., July 14, 2021 — A new study from UC Berkeley’s Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy (BRIE) features WelbeHealth in a case study illustrating how this California eldercare PACE provider responded early and decisively to the COVID-19 crisis with exceptional results.

“By rapidly transforming its care model, WelbeHealth had exceptional results: as COVID-19 cases rose across the country — and in particular within nursing home populations — WelbeHealth did not have a single COVID-19 death during the first 8 months of the pandemic. The first WelbeHealth loss from COVID-19 occurred on November 21, 2020 and 10 WelbeHealth participants died of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.”

-UC Berkeley

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Welbehealth: Case Study of Adapting PACE Under COVID-19

Key findings:

  • WelbeHealth and the PACE community overall had lower death rates than nursing homes; the national PACE COVID-19 death rate was 3.8%, nearly one-third the 11.8% death rate in nursing homes. WelbeHealth calculated a death rate of 2.4%.
  • WelbeHealth acted early and decisively to minimize exposure with an Incident Command response strategy, dispersing tablets for telehealth visits, PPE, thermometers, food, medication, and other essentials into participants’ homes, and providing nearly all care remotely, which proved effective.
  • PACE’s capitated payment model moves the risk from payor to care provider, aligning incentives and encouraging innovation and efficiency in keeping patients well.
  • Technology provided an important amplification to PACE’s model of care — it allowed for regular check-ins and informed decision-making on care needs. However, the social aspect of the PACE day center cannot be replaced by technology, and it is clear that in-person visits are vital.
  • With America’s senior citizen population set to double by 2040, the demand for long-term care will skyrocket. The pandemic underscored that work must begin now to meet the needs of present and future vulnerable elders.
  • Existing home and community-based services (HCBS) such as PACE demonstrated profound success during the pandemic leading to fresh momentum among policymakers to expand these options further.

PACE’s person-to-person, fully integrated approach maintains the participant’s highest level of independence and quality of life[i]; PACE participants experience an 80% drop in rates of depression after joining.[ii] At a time when America is searching for a better way forward in eldercare, PACE is a proven approach for this vulnerable group.

 

“While PACE has a 45-year track record of success, it remains optional in Medicaid while nursing home benefits are required — it’s time for every vulnerable elder in the country to have access to this gold standard of long-term care,” said Elizabeth Carty, Chief Regulatory Affairs Officer of WelbeHealth.

 

Many PACE participants reside in medically underserved areas like San Joaquin County, California, where WelbeHealth’s creative problem-solving and speed to action kept seniors safe in their homes when resources for the elderly were relatively scarce.

 

“As other healthcare organizations were assessing the potential impact and spread of the pandemic, the WelbeHealth team had already taken its crisis response to the next level, ” said Amy Shin, former CEO of Health Plan of San Joaquin. “I was impressed with how nimbly this team charted out a plan not only to keep seniors safe and vaccinated but to vaccinate the community as well. This study’s findings should alert legislators that this style of home and community-based services is the ideal model of care for frail seniors.”

 

What is PACE?
PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) serves low-income seniors who meet their state requirement for nursing home level care allowing them to live independently in their own homes and communities while receiving fully coordinated medical and dental care, physical and occupational therapy, transportation, meals, day programs, home care assistance and more, managed by an 11-person integrated care team. The “one-stop-shop” PACE day centers are the hub of the program, offering seniors a pleasant place to receive care, socialize and enjoy meals within a state-of-the-art facility.

About WelbeHealth
WelbeHealth is a physician-led healthcare organization that provides seniors with high-quality, compassionate care so they can live in their own homes and communities rather than a nursing home. To accomplish this, WelbeHealth uses the PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) model. WelbeHealth currently operates four programs in the Stockton/Modesto, Pasadena/Burbank, Long Beach, and Fresno communities of California.


[i] Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation, “Care That Works: Program for All-inclusive Care for the Elderly.” https://www.healthinnovation.org/resources/publications/care-that-works-pace

[ii] National PACE Association, “COVID Data Demonstrates That the PACE Model Is Safer Than Nursing Home Care.” https://www.npaonline.org/about-npa/press-releases/covid-data-demonstrates-pace-model-safer-nursing-home-care

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mHealthIntelligence: California Provider Sees Telehealth as an Integral Part of PACE Programs

WelbeHealth President Matt Patterson says COVID-19 has taught the industry a good lesson on how to use telehealth, and it should be a permanent part of the senior care service.

By Eric Wicklund

 – A California-based healthcare provider is integrating telehealth into its PACE programs, saying the connected health platform improves its ability to provide value-based care for seniors in their own homes.

While the focus of PACE programs has been on in-person care, the coronavirus pandemic prompted many to shift to connected health to maintain contact with their patients. For WelbeHealth, that meant partnering with Grandpad to equip patients with senior-friendly mHealth tablets that allow them to connect with caregivers on-demand and access health and wellness resources online.

“COVID-19 introduced the need for us to pivot to telehealth,” says WelbeHealth President Matt Patterson. “And in the process, we have saved lives.”

WelbeHealth is one of hundreds of providers focused on the senior care market, many of which participate in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) program. Developed by CMS roughly 30 years ago as a capitated model of care for dual-eligible beneficiaries (ninety percent are dual-eligible), it provides all necessary medical care, therapies, long-term care and services, meals, socialization, transportation, day center services, and activities.

There are currently 135 PACE programs in 31 states, enrolling between 50 and 3,000 patients, for a total of more than 54,000 seniors served. The programs are based in a care center and feature an interdisciplinary care team (IDT) of primary care physicians, nurses, therapists, social workers, dieticians, home care professionals, and others and offers a variety of services on-site and in the home.

PACE programs have traditionally shied away from telehealth, but COVID-19 changed that line of thinking. Now Patterson and his team are at the forefront of a new wave of care providers who want to make telehealth an integral part of the program.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to extend the reach of PACE (and) do more to improve and enrich the lives of our participants,” says Patterson, a former naval surgeon who served as president of digital health pioneer AirStrip before moving into the senior care space.

Telehealth gives PACE programs with WelbeHealth’s the ability to be there for seniors at any time, and to address issues that might not be addressed during in-person visits. That’s important at a time when, mostly due to COVID-19 restrictions, seniors are experiencing high rates of depression, anxiety, stress and substance abuse.

That point has been proven in the Grandpad project. According to a case study, seniors in the WelbeHealth program logged nearly 34,000 hours on the tablets – using both synchronous and asynchronous services – between March of 2020 and March of 2021, including more than 1,500 hours accessing mental health treatment. They also used the tablets to access medical care and exercises aimed at treating cognitive decline.

Patterson says emergency measures adopted by both state and federal governments during the COVID-19 public health emergency have enabled PACE programs to use telehealth more freely. He and his company have been lobbying state officials to make those freedoms permanent.

On the federal level, a bill introduced in March and now before Congress would ensure permanent coverage for audio-only telehealth services for Medicare Advantage and PACE programs, giving providers like WelbeHealth the freedom to incorporate phone calls and non-video telehealth platforms into care plans.

The benefits of connected care are numerous. On-demand access to care providers means seniors can go about their day knowing there’s someone always available should an emergency occur. They have instant access to health and wellness resources that go beyond what they’re getting when the nurse comes by for a visit. They can also collaborate more often on medication management, keep track of daily vital signs, or just talk to someone if they’re lonely or depressed.

Patterson says the pandemic is giving WelbeHealth and others the time to prove the value of connected health and to gather data and experiences to support permanent coverage.

That will be important. CMS has traditionally been very reluctant to expand telehealth coverage and has long argued that it needs evidence that these tools and platforms improve clinical outcomes and reduce wasteful expenses and unnecessary treatments. In short, they want proof.

“PACE is an ideal model for integrating high-touch and virtual care,” Patterson counters. And he wants to do more of that.

“Telehealth is definitely not a replacement (for in-person care), but it gives us more tools, and we want to use these tools for what our participants desire,” he says. “As an organization, we only do well when our participants do well. And they’re doing well.”

 

Click on the logo to view the article.

 

KSEE 24: WelbeHealth PACE in Fresno vaccinates 500th person against COVID-19

Home-based eldercare startup acts as community vaccinator to protect locals.

March 18, 2021 (KSEE) – The team at WelbeHealth PACE in Fresno celebrated on Thursday as they administered the 500th COVID-19 vaccine to a member of the Fresno community. 

“I feel good, I feel great. The staff is great too… I will recommend it to anybody,” said Samuel Sousa, their 500th person to be vaccinated.

“We sit kind of in the heart of a lot of the underserved population when it comes to the senior population, so we’re a perfect location for them to come in.”

WelbeHealth has worked hard to reach out to the public by vaccinating communities in all 4 of its locations, frequently offering to help people reach the site. It was among the first PACE operators in the nation to receive COVID-19 vaccines in 2020.

“We’re unique in the sense that we provide transportation. So anybody that is 55 years and older that isn’t able to get a vaccination, they can actually call us, and we’ll go pick them up,” said Nicole Butler, Director of Center Operations for WelbeHealth.

WelbeHealth partnered with Fresno County to serve as a community vaccination site at the start of 2021, with appointments filling up and long lines forming as people waited patiently for the jab.

“And we sit kind of in the heart of a lot of the underserved population when it comes to the senior population, so we’re a perfect location for them to come in,” said Butler.

 

Click on the logo to view the story.

Why We Support California Assembly Bill (AB) 523: Because Lifting Regulatory Bottlenecks Saved Lives During Covid-19 Crisis

WelbeHealth Administers First Shipment of COVID-19 Vaccines

LONG BEACH Dec. 31, 2020 – WelbeHealth is administering its first COVID-19 vaccines to its elderly participants this week, beginning at the organization’s center in Long Beach, California. The first seniors received their vaccinations on Wednesday, and additional vaccines will be administered next week.

WelbeHealth, a healthcare provider delivering integrated home-based care for frail seniors across California, received its first shipment of the vaccine earlier this week and rapidly deployed its plan to administer the injections to its highest-risk participants.

“This is a momentous occasion for our programs and our society. It’s essential that we all get vaccinated, not only for ourselves but for the safety and wellbeing of everyone in our communities,” said WelbeHealth President Matt Patterson, MD. “With each vaccine, we are literally saving the lives of our elders who have given so much to enrich our world.”

WelbeHealth provides care as part of PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly), a longstanding Medicare and Medicaid program that enables older adults to live in the community instead of a nursing home.

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, WelbeHealth shifted to a remote home-based care model, providing each participant with an internet-connected WelbeLink computer tablet and delivering care in the home whenever possible. The program has a long track record of positive outcomes, including longer life expectancy and dramatically improved mental health and quality of life. The PACE model has proven dramatically safer for seniors during the pandemic, with 85-95 percent lower infection and mortality rates than nursing homes.

 

 

Welbe’s Long Beach PACE Center Launches

The Long Beach Press Telegram covered the launch of our newest PACE center in Long Beach – LA Coast PACE:

LONG BEACH

By Gary Metzker

The golden years aren’t so golden for many these days, as the coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of abating.

At least 38,000 U.S. residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for older adults have died from the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. More than 142,000 people at those facilities have contracted the virus, and at least 90,000 more cases are suspected.

In California, there have been more than 2,400 deaths in long-term care facilities, and according to the Long Beach Health and Human Services Department, 118 deaths have been associated with long-term care facilities in the city.

Many families are not aware that there are other alternatives besides skilled nursing or assisted living facilities, especially during this health crisis.

WelbeHealth is an operator of Medicaid’s Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) across California. Its newest facility is in Long Beach at 1220 E. Fourth St., but because of the coronavirus pandemic, no one is visiting the location. Instead, the company has transitioned to a remote, at-home care model to serve seniors while keeping them physically shielded from the spread of the virus.

According to Sophia Guel-Valenzuela, regional vice president and executive director of the Long Beach facility, having seniors in a PACE program is a safer alternative because it can provide necessities, meal deliveries throughout the day, assistance in the home and meaningful social engagement.

“There has never been a stronger imperative to keep seniors living more independently in their homes and communities,” she said. “Our goal is to keep seniors socially engaged through games and special events. It’s important to keep people safe.”

Guel-Valenzuela said each client gets a 4G LTE tablet to use that enables them to talk to a doctor or a social worker as well as interacting with other people.

“The highlight of my week is to see the engagement going on,” she said. “Engagement coordinators host trivia games, bingo, card games. It’s like a big Zoom meeting.”

Guel-Valenzuela believes the combination of staying at home with interactivity is the template of the future for senior care.

“It’s safer to stay at home now,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for 18 years and this model of coordinated care is something I believe in.”

PACE provides comprehensive medical and social services enabling older adults to live in the community instead of a nursing home or other care facility. Its services are available at no cost to most participants as part of their Medicare and MediCal benefits.

“In our HomePACE model of remote care, we help seniors stay healthy and thriving while avoiding nursing facilities, which have tragically become hotbeds for the spread of coronavirus,” said Dr. Si France, founder and CEO of WelbeHealth in a statement. “We’re excited to expand our all-inclusive model of care into greater Long Beach to serve more vulnerable seniors when they need it most.”

WelbeHealth’s Long Beach location is accepting applications. Families can call 1-800-734-8041.

To learn more about PACE and services we provide, click here.

Spectrum 1 News: PACE Offers Alternative to Assisted Living Facilities

Spectrum News 1 aired a news story highlighting how PACE offers an alternative to assisted living facilities and nursing homes for seniors.  The story featured our new Long Beach facility – LA Coast PACE and discuss how we have changed the model to deliver many of the health and long-term care services to the participants home via technology.  Also included in the story was an interview with one of our participants, Bernadette McCoy, who was drawn to the program because it helped keep her living independently in her home and because it was covered under Medicare and Medicaid.  Click here to view the story in its entirety.

To learn more about the services PACE provides, click here.

PACE Brings the Senior Daycare Center Home

The Pasadena Now published an article on the changes that WelbeHealth and Pacific PACE have made to continue to deliver health and wellness services to nursing home eligible seniors in the safety of their own home:

If there is one thing that the pandemic has taught us, it’s that just about everything, except going somewhere, can be done at home. This has naturally had a huge effect on businesses, retail, and now, senior care.

At the outset of the COVID 19 crisis, and in response to the state’s “shelter at home” order, WelbeHealth in Pasadena transitioned from a central Pasadena location to a remote at-home care model to serve seniors, while keeping them physically shielded from the spread of the virus.

As explained on their website, PACE (The Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) individually coordinates the care of each participant enrolled in the program, based on his or her needs with the goal of enabling them to remain living in their community. PACE is both a primary care provider and a health insurer. Currently, there are more than 240 PACE centers operating in more than 30 states.

“We had a day center where we wanted to prevent nursing home placement,” Regional VP & Pacific PACE Executive Director Sophia Guel-Valenzuela, explained Thursday. “We wanted to prevent trips to urgent care, or to the emergency room. We wanted to prevent people from isolation and loneliness.”

“So we bring them to our daycare center in Pasadena,” she continued. “We have activities, we have music therapy, we have recreation, we give them lunch. We have so many things to do, so many interactive, stimulating activities.”

But when the executive order came out for “shelter in place,” Pacific PACE suddenly had to support its participants in the home.

“So we basically implemented HomePACE,” said Guel-Valenzuela. “We transitioned to a HomePACE model where we are communicating with our participants with a Welbe Link. It’s a 4G LTE tablet.”

The simple-to-use tablet has become the key to instant communication between caregivers and patients, Guel-Valenzuela explained.

“We’re having video calls with our patients. And so we do recreation therapy. We have virtual bingo with them,” said Guel-Valenzuela. “They talk to their doctor, their social worker. Our personal care attendants have social calls with the patients. And so we’re supporting them as if they were in the center, but they’re out there at their home.”

The system organizes meal delivery as well, so patients don’t have to go out and be exposed unnecessarily to the grocery store or the pharmacy.

Pacific PACE Home also delivers all their medications to their home, and helps them with essentials like toothpaste and toilet paper.

‘We’re coordinating everything that they need to be safe,” Guel- Valenzuela pointed out. PACE also offers home care services, such as light housekeeping, and help with bathing and dressing.

Perhaps most importantly, though, the rate of confirmed COVID positive cases in PACE programs nationally is just 2.2%.

As Guel-Valenzuela noted, “Our care team is conducting daily phone calls for COVID-19 signs and symptoms among nearly 95 participants. We have not had any positive cases of COVID19, nor any hospitalizations related to COVID-19. We are equipped with appropriate PPE to serve our participants, and are literally saving lives through our HomePACE model of care.”

Following the success of the Pasadena program, WelbeHealth PACE plans a new operation in Long Beach on June 1.

For more about the services that PACE provides seniors so they can live more independently in their homes and communities, click here.

Coronavirus has ravaged nursing homes. For many seniors, there’s a safer option.

PACE keeps frail seniors healthy, socially engaged, and thriving, even in these unprecedented times.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc and claim lives across the country, many seniors and their families have grown nervous about the potential for outbreaks in nursing homes. Housing about 1.4 million Americans, nursing facilities are a major component of our country’s senior care infrastructure and are facing increasing scrutiny as hotbeds for the spread of the virus. In late April, California reported that nearly 40 percent of the state’s coronavirus-related deaths had occurred in the facilities, with a Los Angeles Times analysis finding that the actual figure could be even higher.

Older adults and people with underlying medical conditions are already at high risk, with reports of over 20 percent morbidity for patients ages 80 and older. With the added risk of congregate living in close quarters, nursing homes have become some of the earliest sites of coronavirus outbreaks.

That’s not to say that nursing home operators are to blame for this situation. Even the most comprehensive infection control policies and procedures may not be able to fully contain the virus when the nature of the facilities’ design is so high-risk. In one of his recent daily briefings, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo described housing “vulnerable people in one place” as a “feeding frenzy” for coronavirus. Acknowledging the high risk, at least six states have now gone so far as to grant nursing facilities explicit immunity from coronavirus lawsuits…..read more.

For more on the PACE services that safely provide comprehensive care for seniors, click here.

How to properly wash your hands

The CDC has provided guidance on how to properly wash your hands.  During the current coronavirus pandemic, knowing the proper technique has never been more important.

Key Times to Wash Hands

You can help yourself and your loved ones stay healthy by washing your hands often, especially during these key times when you are likely to get and spread germs:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you should also clean hands:

  • After you have been in a public place and touched an item or surface that may be frequently touched by other people, such as door handles, tables, gas pumps, shopping carts, or electronic cashier registers/screens, etc.
  • Before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth because that’s how germs enter our bodies.

Follow Five Steps to Wash Your Hands the Right Way

Washing your hands is easy, and it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community—from your home and workplace to childcare facilities and hospitals.

Follow these five steps every time.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Our own Nurse Cheryl demonstrates these techniques in the video below:

To see what PACE services we provide to safely keeping seniors living in their homes and communities, click here.