A recent analysis conducted by UCLA researchers found that the California program Whole Person Care has had positive steps toward providing better-coordinated healthcare for those insured by Medicaid. 

The findings, published by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, show successful efforts in the sharing of patients' medical, behavioral health and social services data, which should enable providers to better collaborate to treat so-called "high-need" patients.

Since its launch in 2016, Whole Person Care started with 25 test programs covering 26 California counties as part of a California Department of Health Care Services effort to provide quality comprehensive care for people enrolled in Medicaid. Since then:

  • All 26 locations provided "active referrals" to medical care, behavioral health care and social services (meaning that workers made and attended appointments, and provided transportation assistance and follow-up).

  • There were notable improvements in coordination and continuity of care because of the program.

  • Data sharing capabilities improved. Seventeen centers (65%) had access to patients' medical, behavioral health and social service data, and 15 of them (58%) had data-sharing agreements with all key partners. Also, 21 centers (81%) had access to patient data for frontline staff.

  • Communication between the centers and patients was strong, with 23 centers (88%) reporting frequent, ongoing communication with enrollees.

The program, which is scheduled to continue through 2020, still requires enhanced data sharing across sectors, increase outreach to improve engagement with patients with complex needs, and make some other improvements to program infrastructure, according to the analysis. 

"The program addresses challenges such as providing transportation to appointments or translation services for patients with complex needs, which can require organizations to work together in new ways," said Emmeline Chuang, lead author of the paper and an associate professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. "We've identified elements of a framework that other organizations can use in considering how to successfully create their own programs and ultimately could influence policymakers and insurers to invest in the WPC approach to improve care for patients in California and beyond."

Nadereh Pourat, PhD, who led the evaluation, is the center’s associate director, and also directs the research center's Health Economics and Evaluation Research Program, said, "The data highlighted the value of continued investment in developing needed structure for care coordination, focusing on patient-centered practices that engage vulnerable patients and leveraging resources and partnerships to address limited availability of permanent housing. The program breaks down some of the barriers in our fragmented healthcare system and could pave the way for future models of care."

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