In late March, I was honored to speak at the 2022 Northern California State of Reform Health Policy Conference in Sacramento, on their “Innovations in Care Collaboration” panel. I was joined by my fellow panelists Crystal Eubanks of the California Quality Collaborative and Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (AD 46) who sits on the Assembly Committee on Health. The panel focused on how health care and community organizations are collaborating and coordinating in new and innovative ways, how this work takes shape, the implications for quality care moving forward, and how we can foster new ideas.

We had a lively conversation and discussed how despite the differences in our roles and where we touch the health care industry, there are some common themes that cut across all our work. Whether through data-sharing, primary care reform, or legislation, we are all striving to bring transparency into the health care system, improve care for marginalized communities, and leverage health care to address social needs. Below are a few highlights from the panel.

Lessons from COVID-19

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Many Californians go without needed health and social care, preventing California from meeting its ambitious equity goals. At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw many of these issues get worse – particularly for communities of color – exacerbating the health disparities already present in our health and social systems.

However, we also saw health systems, community-based organizations, and innovators come together in new and exciting ways to address the challenges of providing culturally relevant care to California’s marginalized communities.

At Blue Shield of California, as part of our vaccination efforts, we built and strengthened partnerships with community-based organizations (CBOs) to expand the reach and impact of these trusted, local messengers who can provide culturally responsive services within their communities. With investment from Blue Shield of California, these CBOs were able to leverage the technology platform Harmony Health to extend the reach of their engagement through linguistically appropriate messaging services to connect communities to vital information and services for the COVID vaccine.

Across five CBOs, over 320,000 messages were generated to over 29,000 community members in their preferred language, including English, Spanish, Chinese, and Tongan.

COVID highlighted the urgent need for technology to help facilitate care collaboration. In addition to platforms like Harmony Health that help engage members of marginalized communities, we also saw the power and potential of leveraging data and data sharing to help identify and direct resources to communities most in need of services.

Blue Shield of California and our community partners were able to use data-informed heat mapping which overlayed where unvaccinated members resided, their ethnicity, and age in order to make informed, data-driven decisions to direct resources to those most in need and connect them to care.

We need to build our data sharing capabilities across the state to be able to strengthen our public health infrastructure beyond COVID-response, and to be able to make data-driven decisions like Blue Shield of California and our partners did through our heat mapping. Making sure providers and community-based organizations have the access and infrastructure to collect, utilize, and share information is critical to driving forward health equity.

Looking ahead

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As we move forward from the pandemic, we need policy movement and industry alignment to achieve statewide data sharing that can help us strengthen our public health infrastructure and advance health equity:

  • We need to ensure California’s data sharing mandate (AB133) signed into law last year becomes reality and that all specified entities including providers, plans and the state are sharing complete patient data in real-time for all allowable use cases. Data sharing is not just critical for providers and patients making clinical decisions, but for identifying disparities and developing targeted and appropriate programs.
  • We need to make sure we create a system that meets the state’s most urgent needs: shoring up public health infrastructure and supporting data sharing for the care continuum implementing CalAIM, while leveraging our existing data sharing infrastructure including Health Information Exchange networks.
  • State and private organizations need to work together to adequately fund and sustain data sharing, particularly for small providers.
  • Looking ahead, the work doesn’t end with the data sharing mandate going live in 2024. We need to ensure that industry players continue to work together to collaboratively tackle issues like data sharing.
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The Industry Initiatives team outside the Innovations in Care Collaboration panel