Harnessing the Power of Community Health Workers
By Robin Stawasz
There are times when a single solution comes forward to solve several problems at once. This may be one of those times. Community Health Workers (CHWs), also know as care or peer navigators, community health representatives, or non-clinical case managers, are being recognized for their incredible potential to improve patient clinical outcomes and satisfaction, enable the rest of the care team to function much more efficiently, address social and access issues, decrease unnecessary utilization, and improve interagency integration. CHWs are being integrated into care models across the continuum, including medical and behavioral health, managed care, and public health. Palliative care is an optimal setting for CHWs as well.
With holistic care already at the heart of the palliative care model, the place for CHWs is already set. They can connect patients with community resources, identify and track social needs, check in on patient and family well-being, provide education and advocacy, coordinate scheduling and reminders, facilitate referrals and admission processes, and deliver follow-up to providers. This will allow clinical team members to work closer to the top of their licenses and be better informed on the overall status of patients. As CHWs do not require any licensing or specific degrees, organizations can hire for aptitude and ability from a much larger workforce pool – a huge bonus during this time of shrinking staff availability. While CHWs are not yet reimbursed directly by CMS, the ROI on what they can accomplish can make the expense worth it.
So how would a palliative care program set up CHWs in their care model? The Better Care Playbook offers some great suggestions from other providers who have successfully integrated CHWs. Several different models are presented, as well as toolkits and strategies for making it work. Payers and other providers will be looking to palliative care and other home-based post-acute care providers to deliver in the areas of social determinants and access. CHWs are a great way to get that work done.
If you would like to talk more about the power of Community Health Workers, Acclivity is here for you – please contact us.
Source Material: “Community Health Worker Programs” posted by The Better Care Playbook and available at https://www.bettercareplaybook.org/collections/community-health-worker-programs