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Representative Doris Matsui commends UC Davis Health for digital access to care

Woman with dark hair and orange dress, at left, smiles at a man wearing blue dress and gray hair
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(SACRAMENT)

Representative Doris Matsui on Friday visited a UC Davis Health COVID-19 community testing site where uninsured patients with a positive diagnosis can get instant access to a doctor on a telehealth tablet.

Woman with dark hair and orange dress, at left, smiles at a man wearing blue dress and gray hair
Rep. Doris Matsui, left, helped secure $1.7 million for the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities to advance digital health equity.

The Digital Health Equity Program is the result of $1.7 million in federal funding Matsui helped secure for UC Davis Health’s Digital Health Program, which seeks to improve access and continuity of care for vulnerable populations in and around Sacramento.

The series of pop-up tents outside WellSpace Health that resembled a health fair on Friday afternoon is one of dozens of “test to cure” sites hosted by the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities (CRHD). The center chooses convenient locations where vulnerable populations, including agricultural workers, live, work and congregate.

“I want to thank the entire UC Davis Health team for keeping our community healthy, but also for the important work they have done to innovate and expand access to all corners of our community,” said Matsui. “And I want to thank our wonderful partners, WellSpace Health and Ampla…you really are doing such amazing things.”

Federal funding benefits uninsured patients

Legislative funding supported by Rep. Matsui, through the passage of HR 2471 last year, created a regional digital public health platform to provide direct telehealth assistance to patients at testing sites who wish to meet with a physician. The free COVID-19 test, which has been underway since December 2021 under a program called MOVE IT UP, is supported by a $5 million state grant to the CRHD. Both projects have been integrated into what is called the Test-to-Treat Digital Health Equity project, or T2T DHE.

Representative Doris Matsui

I want to thank the entire UC Davis Health team for keeping our community healthy, but also for the important work they have done to innovate and expand access to all corners of our community.Congresswoman Doris Matsui

“As the person driving telehealth and health equity policy in Congress,” Matsui said, “I am proud that the Sacramento region continues to lead the way and push us forward with innovative new programs. That’s why I fought hard to get federal funding and support UC Davis Health’s mission to empower underserved communities.”

Federal money funded four digital health navigator positions assisting patients in test-to-treat facilities, which are growing in popularity across the country. It also funded the expansion of UC Davis Health’s IT digital health network. This allows the health system to partner with community health organizations, including Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) such as WellSpace Health in the Sacramento area and Ampla Health in Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Sutter, Tehama and Yuba counties.

The UC Davis T2T DHE program works like this: When someone tests positive for COVID-19, digital health navigators help navigate the patient to a private area and use tablets to connect them to an FQHC primary care provider for a consultation point-of-care video. The provider can then prescribe medications for the patient.

“UC Davis Health continues to build on its long history as the state’s leader in telehealth and digital health through programs like this that connect underprivileged populations with our world-class care,” said Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, UC Founding Director. Davis Center for Reducing Health Inequalities. “Social determinants of health have a strong impact on health equity, accounting for between 30% and 55% of health outcomes. As we expand our telehealth services to where the people are, we’re putting all patients at the heart of everything we do on these innovative fronts, regardless of their circumstances.”

Partnerships enable digital health equity agenda

The T2T DHE program would not be possible without UC Davis Health’s close partnership with FQHCs, where thousands of Medi-Cal beneficiaries receive high-quality health care, such as Ampla Health and WellSpace Health.

“The partnership between Ampla Health and UC Davis exemplifies how collaboration can close the patient care gap for those in hard-to-serve urban and rural farm worker communities face significant challenges seeking COVID-19 testing and treatment through T2T DHE mobile clinics,” said Ben Flores, president and chief executive officer of Ampla Health. “By harnessing the potential of telehealth, we have improved care coordination and access to health and non-health services. Together we have reformed healthcare delivery, bringing compassionate and quality care directly to patients struggling to access underserved communities.”

The T2T DHE program is also the latest of several collaborations between UC Davis Health and WellSpace Health, including a partnership that increases patient access to urgently needed specialty care.

“WellSpace Health is dedicated to achieving regional health, which means we need to bring care to where a person is, rather than asking them to come to us,” said Jonathan Porteus, CEO of WellSpace Health. “The T2T DHE program does just that by bringing together virtual and in-person care, in underserved communities, to serve vulnerable people. It is a win-win model of care.”

Joseph Galante, the new interim medical director of UC Davis Health, praised the partnerships with WellSpace and Ampla, saying the collaboration provides much-needed access to care.

“This is a great day for patients, for our regional community, and for our hard-working providers and staff,” Galante said.

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