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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.”

 

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Remote Home Care Model Aims to Protect Seniors

WelbeHealth and our PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly ) centers was recently profiled in the Escalon Times on how we met the COVID-19 crisis head on, quickly making changes to our program model so that we could deliver our senior care services such as medical appointments and meals to our participants’ homes, instead of our centers.  We also equipped our participants with WelbeLink tablets so that medical and rehab appointments could be done remotely and to help our seniors combat isolation.  Read about our changes to deliver nursing home level of care to our participants.

Remote Home Care Model Aims to Protect Seniors 

To learn more about our other PACE services, click here.

ID 173704786 © Sirinarth Mekvorawuth | Dreamstime.com

WelbeHealth Sierra Shifts to Remote Home Care Model – Latino Times

WelbeHealth and our PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly ) centers was received additional coverage from the Latino Times on how we met the COVID-19 crisis head on, quickly making changes to our program model so that we could deliver our senior care services such as medical appointments and meals to our participants’ homes, instead of our centers.  We also equipped our participants with WelbeLink tablets so that medical and rehab appointments could be done remotely and to help our seniors combat isolation.  Read about our changes to deliver nursing home level of care to our participants here.

To learn more about PACE services, click here.

Stockton PACE Shifts to Remote Home Care Model – Latino Times

WelbeHealth and our PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly ) centers was received additional coverage from the Latino Times on how we met the COVID-19 crisis head on, quickly making changes to our program model so that we could deliver our senior care services such as medical appointments and meals to our participants’ homes, instead of our centers.  We also equipped our participants with WelbeLink tablets so that medical and rehab appointments could be done remotely and to help our seniors combat isolation.  Read about our changes to deliver nursing home level of care to our participants here.

To learn more about PACE services, click here.

“Changes to PACE Programs” WelbeHealth

MENLO PARK, CA (March 27, 2020)—WelbeHealth, operator of three PACE programs across California, has made major adjustments to its clinical and operational model to protect the health and well-being of its participants in the face of the rapidly escalating COVID-19 pandemic, including a shift to remote and home care for its vulnerable population of seniors. 

PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) is a longstanding Medicare and Medicaid program that provides comprehensive medical and social services enabling older adults to live in the community instead of a nursing home or other care facility. Since 2019, WelbeHealth has become one of the fastest-growing PACE operators in the U.S., opening Stockton PACE in greater Stockton-Modesto, Pacific PACE in the PasadenaGlendale-Burbank region, and LA Coast PACE in the greater Long Beach area. 

Welbe has been prepared to operate during a pandemic since long before the emergence of COVID-19. The company’s leadership and clinical teams have worked extensively in recent weeks to implement their emergency preparedness program, including launching their Pandemic Incident Response Systems. These systems include a well-defined chain of command and pandemic-specific roles and responsibilities, ensuring clear communication and enabling continued high quality of care for PACE participants. 

In the traditional PACE model, most participants visit a day center two or three times per week. With the emergence of coronavirus, Welbe’s PACE programs have made major changes to protect the health of vulnerable seniors. Since March 16, participants have been receiving nearly all their care remotely, at home. In addition to medical care, the programs also continue to provide essential services to seniors based on individual needs, including food preparation and delivery, medication delivery, and personal hygiene assistance. 

 “I’m extremely proud of our team’s creativity and devotion in ensuring that our seniors continue to receive exceptional care 24/7,” said the President of WelbeHealth, Matt Patterson, MD. 

To support home-based care for participants, Welbe has deployed over 200 4G LTE “WelbeLink” tablets with hardware and software specifically designed for use by seniors. Welbe’s care teams use the tablets to maintain regular video communications with participants in the home, making hundreds of calls per day to manage seniors’ medical needs and concerns and complete social and behavioral health check-ins. The tablets also provide games and entertainment for seniors to enjoy throughout the day. 

With around-the-clock support from leadership and the tremendous efforts of clinical team members, Welbe has been able to make the shift to remote care very rapidly. At Stockton PACE, the team assembled and delivered protective equipment and supply kits to all employees, set up and delivered hundreds of WelbeLink tablets and thermometers to all participants, and identified needs and delivered food and supplies to seniors’ homes — all in a matter of days. At Pacific PACE, one new participant reflected, “Pacific PACE isn’t just a change in doctor or health; it’s a change of life for me. I’m extremely grateful for everyone making this possible.” 

In addition to shifting to remote care, the company has taken numerous other steps to protect participants and caregivers during the pandemic. Since March 16, all team members have been mandated to shelter in place and work from home unless otherwise assigned by the emergency response team. WelbeHealth is also working closely with local, state, and federal health officials to ensure appropriate resources are available to care for participants, including being prepared to test participants and caregivers for COVID-19 when appropriate. 

“My colleagues and I chose to work in healthcare out of a sense of calling — a desire to serve and contribute when it matters most,” wrote the CEO of WelbeHealth, Si France, MD in a letter to participants and families. “I assure you that our team will continue to make every effort to do the right thing and protect our seniors during this critical time.” 

 

About WelbeHealth 

At WelbeHealth, our mission is to unlock the full potential of our most vulnerable seniors with empathy and love. We do it through PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly), a comprehensive medical and social care model with a decades-long track record of improved quality of life, life expectancy, and personal empowerment for frail seniors. As part of our PACE programs, most participants are able to live safely and independently in their own homes and communities rather than receive care in a nursing home. WelbeHealth operates three PACE programs across California, with plans for additional expansion in underserved communities. For more information, please visit welbehealth.com.

To learn more about our PACE services, click here.

WelbeHealth Sierra Celebrates One Year Anniversary

WelbeHealth Sierra, our first Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) celebrated one year of healthcare and wellness service to the eligible seniors in the San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties with a gala event at our WelbeHealth Sierra center.  The grand event was covered by the Latino Times  and described the rapid growth of the center and even mentioned the rescue of the dog Daisy, featured in this video.  Click below for the story.

To learn more about PACE services, click here.

Entrepreneur.com: How This Mission-Driven Change Agent Is Disrupting Healthcare

A doctor and entrepreneur shares how his team is changing eldercare.

Entrepreneur

– WelbeHealth Founder and CEO, Si France, MD was interviewed by Entrepreneur.com’s Jessica Abo about what motivated him to pave his own path to entrepreneurship.
Health Care Capitalist or Mission-Driven Change Agent? Check out what he has to say about pivoting from the success of the business-model-based GoHealth Urgent Care,  to something that was a force for good:
“I wanted to go create this organization where people weren’t resources in some kind of capitalist plan. We cared about people.”
With a focus on elder care, Si went on to create WelbeHealth, an operator of the Medicaid/Medicare PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly).
PACE serves low-income, Medicaid/Medicare eligible, frail seniors by providing 11-person integrated care teams to each participant so that they can live independently in their own homes and communities while having full access to medical and dental care, meals, transportation, medication management, home health aides, adult day programs, and more. Teams who operate PACE, like Welbe, report an 80% average drop in depression rates after enrollment.
During COVID-19 it saved lives and its rapid response to the pandemic has been featured as a case study in the rapid deployment of telehealth during the lockdown, while still emphasizing the absolute importance of high-touch, in-person care.

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We are WelbeHealth

At WelbeHealth, our mission is to unlock the full potential of our most vulnerable seniors with empathy and love. We do it through PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly), a comprehensive medical and social care model with a decades-long track record of improved quality of life, life expectancy, and personal empowerment for frail seniors. As part of our PACE programs, most participants are able to live safely and independently in their own homes and communities rather than receive care in a nursing home. For more information, please visit welbehealth.com.

We are WelbeHealth Video

To learn more about PACE services, click here.