Health Net, an insurance subsidiary of Centene, is offering at home COVID-19 vaccines for members with Medi-Cal insurance in the Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Fresno regions. The insurance company is partnering with MedArrive, a virtual care and in-home medical provider, on the initiative, which aims to reduce stigma and increase community buy-in across those regions.
It’s part of Health Net’s larger strategy to use data and in-person care to address the needs of patients in underserved communities, said Dr. Pooja Mittal, chief health equity officer, Health Net. “We look at race, ethnicity, language, we look at sexual orientation, gender identity, we look at urban, rural, and then other social determinants, and then we really create programs within communities that will meet their particular needs,” she said.
Digital Health Business & Technology spoke with Mittal about the program’s goals and how the company is rethinking the traditional methods of care delivery. The interview was edited for clarity and length.
What’s behind this partnership and how does it represent how Health Net views how care delivery is changing?
We started this partnership with MedArrive a few months ago as part of our broader focus on COVID vaccine equity. MedArrive is part of [an initiative] that we've taken on to really try and get vaccines to our most vulnerable populations, who have disparities in either access to vaccination or the ability to be able to schedule a vaccine. We've identified our members who are either homebound [or] have difficulty leaving the home or have transportation issues, or who fall into some of these groups that have really significant disparities in vaccine access. Particularly in our Black, Pacific Islander and native populations. We have focused on those folks who are higher risk within that subgroup and, offer them vaccines in the home, as well as any other support that they might need to really be able to maximize that visit.
How much of a problem do you see access still being? We’re going on a year and a half now of having vaccines widely available, is it still an issue?
Through our geo-mapping work, we’ve found that even in places like Los Angeles—which you think of as this big, sprawling, urban area—there are whole communities and households that don't have access to a big box pharmacy. [Some populations] don't have access, necessarily, to people they trust. There's a lot of mistrust within the healthcare system. We geo-mapped to find where [there] wasn't necessarily good access. What we found is when we would bring these culturally tailored, community-focused events into certain regions that people were really excited to come to these events and get vaccines from their trusted community provider.
What does success look like for this program? Is it shots in arms or something else?
What we're looking for is positive feedback from people. We found that people are appreciative of being offered the opportunity to get the vaccine in their home. It's been a fairly low percentage overall of people who accepted the opportunity to get vaccinated in the home. But, I think offering it and allowing people to make that decision is really important. Especially having a trusted partner who can have the conversation [and address] that person's concerns or worries about getting the vaccine, to us, that's a success. So it may not convert to a vaccine today, but in the long run, the more that we build trust with our members, the more that we can help to positively improve their health.
Is the future of care going to be a hybrid model like this?
I think that as a health system, we're certainly moving in that direction. We are exploring other ways we might be able to use this model. We do partner with other vendors that do this type of work for different populations, and what we see is the state is moving in that direction with screenings…There are a lot of opportunities to meet needs of folks who either have mistrust of the healthcare system, don't have easy access to transportation or have other barriers that really prevent them from getting engaged in care. As we move towards being a more equitable health system, we have to meet people where they're at.