Upper Chesapeake Health, Union Hospital receive $9.2 million grant
— Union Hospital and University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health (UMUCH) recently received a four-year, $9.2 million grant to improve the quality of life for Medicare patients with multiple chronic conditions.
The grant, which was awarded by the State of Maryland’s Health Services Cost Review Commission, will go toward developing Wellness Action Teams of Cecil, Harford, or WATCH, an outreach program geared toward helping Medicare patients with two or more chronic conditions or who have been hospitalized frequently. The health care providers will receive $2.7 million starting this fiscal year with the remainder to be given out in the following years, according to a release.
“The goal is to improve quality of life through support and care of our more vulnerable neighbors,” said Lyle Sheldon, president and CEO of Upper Chesapeake Health in a statement. “Using available technology and a unified approach, we will provide a more efficient and proactive method to serving our community in need. Our regional partnership will work together to provide coordinated health care and social resources to Medicare patients who are at high risk for serious health complications.”
Those also involved in the partnership include the health departments and Offices on Aging in both counties, Healthy Cecil and Healthy Harford, Federally Qualified Health Centers in both counties and CRISP, the state health information exchange, the release stated. The proposal was part of a seven month planning process that included Amedisys Home Health, Lorien Health, Harford County EMS, Hart to Heart Transportation and Med Chi, according to the release.
The grant will help create four teams of caregivers, including one nurse, two community health workers and a social worker to work with patients in their homes and community, outside the walls of a hospital or doctor’s office, to optimize their health. The teams will employ technology that will help patients keep track of their appointments, medications and other healthcare needs, according to the release.
Patients and caregivers will have the opportunity to keep in contact with each other through in-home tele-monitoring and use tools such as care plans that are viewable by the providers, the release stated.
The next step in implementing the plan is to finalize workflows and operating procedures, hire WATCH team members and train the nurses, social workers and community health workers, said Colin Ward, vice president of population health/clinical integration for Upper Chesapeake Health.
The second phase of the implementa- tion involves hiring and training community health workers that will work in the Health Departments, Offices of Aging and the two Federally Qualified Health Centers, West Cecil Health and Beacon Health, Ward said. This phase will take place in August or September, he added.
Some of the WATCH members are hospital employees that have transferred to work, Ward said, but more than half of the staff is new, though they do have experience in other healthcare organizations and wanted to work in the communities they live in.
Ward said partner agencies will meet to refine the program.
“Providing the best possible care at the right time and in the right place is key to improving the health of our community,” said Dr. Richard Szumel, president and CEO of Union Hospital in a prepared statement. “Working with our community partners in Cecil and Harford counties will help us develop and implement new approaches to the ever changing health care landscape.”
Last spring, both health care facilities were one of nine coalitions of health care providers in Maryland to receive funding from the commission to support new approaches to care by optimizing the health of residents, increasing the quality of care and reducing avoidable hospital utilization and costs, according to the release.
Union Hospital, along with Upper Chesapeake Health, recently received a grant to help Medicare patients with chronic conditions.