With efforts to help those in need of overall good health, California became home to 25 pilot "Whole Person Care" (WPC) programs in 26 of the state's counties, early this year.
According to a recent report published in Health Affairs, the WPC pilot programs were implemented to address the medical and social service needs of the most vulnerable and highest-using Medicaid beneficiaries, such as those experiencing homelessness.
Since mid-March, the WPC programs have become more essential to those 26 counties and the state because of the international coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The state of California now has seen 54,937 total cases, 2,254 total deaths and has tested 715,751 total residents as of May 4.
Like many other states affected by COVID-19, California county health and public health departments have refocused their efforts on response to the pandemic and their resources are stretched very thin. The challenges to such emergency responses are well-documented and include the need for centralized leadership and rapid and effective information sharing; this is necessary to raise awareness of priorities and implement a coordinated response across all sectors that provide essential health and human services, according to the report.
WPC pilots can address these challenges, as they are typically led by county health or public health agencies and include an explicit focus on development of cross sector partnerships, forming multidisciplinary care teams, and building data sharing infrastructure to support care for vulnerable residents, the report says.
In April, Health Affair asked the pilots to describe whether and how they used WPC partnerships and infrastructure to respond to COVID-19 and whether the COVID-19 pandemic affected WPC implementation. A rating of 1 meant that a pilot did not rely at all on a WPC resource in their COVID-19 response; 5 meant that they relied on that resource to a great extent. Twenty-one of the 26 WPC counties, representing 20 WPC Pilots, responded to the questionnaire between April 7 and April 20, prior to the report being published in late April.
Pilots reported relying extensively on nearly all WPC resources to coordinate their counties’ COVID-19 response. Pilots said they relied most extensively on the expertise of the multidisciplinary leaders and staff—with a median rating of 5—which were used to develop plans and implement them across agencies and service providers.
Pilots gave nearly as high ratings to interagency and other partner relationships developed as a result of WPC, and to WPC pilot program services. Both of these resources received a median rating of 4.
Finally, pilots said WPC data sharing infrastructure also had an impact on the COVID-19 response, but to a lesser degree (median rating of 3) than other WPC resources. This was likely due to significant variation in functionality of such infrastructure. Pilots with higher functionality were better able to facilitate remote work and disseminate data county-wide.