Community engagement is essential to bring palliative care to populations that have historically been underserved, according to Karen Davis-Pritchett, vice president of access and inclusion at Empath Health.
According to the National Hospice and Palliative Organization (NHPCO), more than 80% of Medicare palliative care patients in 2018 were Caucasian, while African American, Asian and Hispanic patients made up less than 20% of the remaining beneficiaries this year. -the.
In addition to lower rates of overall use, hospice patients who are members of minority communities are more likely to leave hospice, be admitted to hospital, or go to the emergency department. research found.
Hospice News spoke with Davis-Pritchett about community engagement strategies that can help providers reach more of these underserved populations.
How would you define community engagement? Seems to be something that would go beyond traditional marketing?
I would define this as intentional outreach and engagement with our communities in terms of discovering their needs and ways to partner with other like-minded organizations with the same mission and vision. How do we create collaboration to really make a difference in the communities we are privileged to serve?
It goes beyond a brochure or resource table at a community fair. It’s really about being able to cultivate relationships, cultivate trust. It is a real community engagement.
How has the pandemic affected the ability of providers to engage with their communities?
The pandemic has created barriers. Of course, we are used to engaging face to face with our community partners. We have to be innovative. The use of technology is very important. Using platforms like Zoom allows us not only to engage with them, but also to check in with them from a human point of view, to see how they are doing.
Because the pandemic has been comprehensive, it has brought unique challenges. It’s important for all of us to find ways to connect and to be really intentional about connecting with our community and our community partners.
Can you talk about some of the benefits for the community of engaging with hospice providers in their area?
It provides education because we want our community members to be informed and to be able to make decisions based on correct information. We want them to be able to make informed decisions for themselves or for their loved ones – from a space of knowledge, not a space of myths.
It is important that we engage with them to cultivate trust. They may have had experience with health care providers or other areas of health care in which they may have felt discriminated against. They may not have received culturally appropriate or culturally competent care.
When we engage with our communities, we have the opportunity to build a relationship and cultivate trust, so that they know whether we have the privilege of caring for them at the end of their life or caring for one. member of the family or a parishioner of theirs, we will provide them with the best care. We will be culturally appropriate in providing this support to the patient, as well as the caregiver.
What were some of the specific strategies your organization pursues to engage with communities and especially among underserved populations?
When we talk about a pandemic, we know that our communities of color have unfortunately been deeply affected because of the disparities in health care. Empath Health intended to partner with our community organizations to provide a platform where our employees can get information about vaccines and the coronavirus.
We were able to engage our physicians to participate in these community presentations as well as public service announcements. We also used our Community Partnership Specialists to be present at drive-thru events to honor our Vietnam Veterans. We have used our volunteers and community partner specialists as liaison officers for emotional support, uplifting and encouragement by doing chalk art with some of our nursing homes and long term care facilities, as well as on our campuses.
We know that our PACE participants may be isolated and disengaged during this time. Our PACE staff have created socialization kits for our participants to reduce this isolation and keep them engaged.
We have strong relationships and dedicated community partnership specialists. They are constantly engaged with underserved communities, such as the African American community, our Hispanic community, our veterans, our Jewish and LGBTQ + community. It is really fundamental for our organization.
I believe these relationships have grown stronger because we have shown that when needed, we will always be there. The pandemic is an unprecedented time that we are still living and learning from. Everyone is living this moment together. In healthcare, we are all trying to figure out how to keep our staff safe, make sure we have PPE, and pay attention to the mental health and well-being of our staff.
In the midst of all of this, it could be very easy to distract our attention from our communities. Instead, we recognized that they need us more than ever. We could focus internally and make sure our staff have what they need, but also check with our community partners and make sure we can share the resources that we have.
Can you tell us a bit about who your community partners are? What types of organizations do you work with?
We work with organizations that are social organizations. These could be civic organizations or other health care organizations.
We work in partnership with the Hispanic Leadership Council, Gulf Coast Leadership Council, Jewish Family Services, Veterans Organizations, National Council of Negro Women, Inc. and the Alzheimer’s Association. We have a very diverse group of community partners.
It is important that we build these relationships with various community partners, as they all serve a particular sector of the community. As a healthcare provider, we want to make sure we partner with these mission-aligned organizations to increase our reach and increase our presence.
What are some of the qualities you look for when choosing a community partner?
We want to work with partners who don’t make assumptions about a particular community. We want to know that they respect the members of the community and the historical experiences of that community.