California, Other States Testing Community Health Worker Programs
California and other states are developing ways to use community health workers to meet the demands of the Affordable Care Act while improving health outcomes and reducing Medicaid and other public costs, Kaiser Health News reports.
For example, Los Angeles County is testing whether community health workers can help improve outcomes and prevent costly emergency department visits among the sickest patients.
Similar efforts are underway in Massachusetts, Oregon and Pennsylvania.
Details of L.A. County Program
According to KHN, Los Angeles County employs about 25 community health workers who support physicians and provide services, including:
- Appointment scheduling;
- Disease coaching; and
- Medication reminders.
Community health workers also occasionally help patients find housing or obtain food stamps.
According to KHN, workers in the county program do not need medical backgrounds, but many previously acted as caregivers for family members or friends. However, they undergo several months of training that includes information on:
- Helping patients to make behavioral changes; and
Under the program, community health workers serve about 150 patients.
Clemens Hong, director of the county's community health worker program, said he plans to add hundreds more patients to the program by spring 2016. According to KHN, patients are chosen based on:
- How often they go to the hospital;
- Their illnesses; and
- Whether physicians think they would benefit from the program.
Los Angeles County also is conducting a study of the program to compare the costs and outcomes of patients in the program with those who do not have an assigned community health worker (Gorman Kaiser Health News, 10/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.