WelbeHealth, operator of three PACE programs across California, has taken aggressive and preemptive action to adjust 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. The actions include a rapid shift to remote and home care for its vulnerable population of seniors.
Stockton PACE, WelbeHealth’s first PACE program, opened in January 2019 to serve frail seniors across San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. 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. WelbeHealth also operates Pacific PACE in the Pasadena-Glendale-Burbank region and LA Coast PACE in the greater Long Beach area.
Welbe’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. Within 36 hours of launching the emergency response system, the company had shifted to a remote home care model for all participants. 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 President Matt Patterson, MD.
To support home-based care for participants, Welbe has deployed 4G LTE “WelbeLink” tablets with hardware and software specifically designed for use by seniors to 100 percent of participants’ homes. 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 enable seniors to stay socially engaged through “Face2Face” video chat and provide games and entertainment for seniors to enjoy throughout the day.
“In a safe model of remote home care, we can keep frail seniors home, healthy, socially engaged, and thriving — while also physically distanced to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” said CEO Si France, MD. “We are making every effort to do the right thing and protect our seniors during this critical time.”
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.
Older adults and people with underlying medical conditions are at particularly high risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, underscoring the need for aggressive action to protect PACE participants. According to the National PACE Association, the average PACE participant in the U.S. is 77 years old with eight medical conditions, many of which are chronic conditions such as diabetes, dementia, coronary artery disease, and cerebrovascular disease.
In addition to shifting to remote care, WelbeHealth has taken numerous other steps to protect participants and caregivers during the pandemic. In mid-March, all team members shifted to a remote, work-from-home model — the only exception being when a specific caregiver is mobilized to provide essential in-person care to a participant. The company is 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. WelbeHealth also continues to hire new team members at each of its programs across clinical and home health roles to meet community health needs.
WelbeHealth currently operates three PACE programs across California, with plans for additional expansion in underserved communities. For more information, visit welbehealth.com.