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Rising to the Challenge of Culturally-Sensitive Care

David Rock

This post is guest-written by David A. Rock, President & CEO of CenterLight Health System.


In my 30+ year-career, I’ve worked across the U.S., on four continents, and in a wide range of healthcare environments. But I have yet to witness another program with the transformative impact of CenterLight Teamcare PACE.

 As one of the oldest and largest non-profit Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) in the United States, Teamcare serves Medicare-Medicaid eligible older adults who require long-term care. Each day, across the New York area, we provide healthcare and services to thousands of individuals ranging in age from 55 to 106 years old.

While this leading-edge care model is a game changer, our objective is simple: to provide individualized care to help seniors live safely and independently at home. 

We Don’t Treat Patients

We refer to the individuals we serve not as patients, but as participants – an important distinction. As Teamcare participants, they’re actively involved in their own care plan and are encouraged to attend regular meetings with their care team. We also have a very active Participant Advisory Council that offers enthusiastic input on how we can improve their experience with us. As former teachers, judges, tradespeople, and even healthcare workers, our participants have unique and valuable perspectives to provide, and we want to hear from them.


A Microcosm of New York

At Teamcare, our guiding principle is to provide care as unique as those we serve. But when you serve people of a multitude of ethnicities, who speak 23 languages, including numerous dialects, and observe multiple denominations of all the world’s major religions, this can be a complex challenge.

Each day, reflecting the rich diversity of our great city, we seize a powerful opportunity to honor the many distinct cultures of those we serve.


It Takes a (Multicultural) Team

We provide care from an interdisciplinary team (IDT) of professionals that includes but is not limited to a Doctor, Nurse, Social Worker, Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Recreational Therapist, Nutritionist and Transportation Coordinator. Like our participants, our IDTs speak multiple languages and dialects – including Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Haitian Creole, Albanian and Arabic – enabling them to better communicate with our participants and understand their needs.

This helps us to effectively provide all of the hallmarks of PACE: a personalized, hands-on approach to planning, providing and coordinating all medical treatments, therapies and transportation. It also helps us forge deep relationships with those we serve, effectively monitor complex health conditions and prevent unnecessary hospitalizations. Where appropriate, we may also integrate complementary therapies – such as Chinese acupuncture or qi gong dance – into a participant’s care plan.

Mirroring their surrounding communities, each of our centers has its own unique demographic makeup of participants and staff. Our Stillwell site in south Brooklyn, for example, has a vibrant Russian and Asian presence. In Westchester, we serve Hispanic, Caribbean and Chinese populations. Albanian, Korean and other Asian communities are strongly represented at our two Queens sites. At our bucolic Amityville site – which is adjacent to an organic farm – we care for a community of Catholic nuns.


Culturally-Specific Programming

Our staff thoughtfully designs culturally-specific field trips, activities and celebrations to help keep our participants actively engaged in our program. Here are just a few examples:

  • At our Flushing and Chinatown sites, we host elaborate Lunar New Year celebrations for our Asian populations, including traditional sweets and dancing dragon performances.

  • At one of our Bronx centers, Dominican Day, Puerto Rican Day and Caribbean Week are all enthusiastically celebrated. Last fall, the center hosted its first Albanian Independence Day celebration, featuring Albanian food, music and traditional costumes.

  • At our Jamaica Alternative Care Setting, the passing seasons are marked by Holi in the spring, Diwali in the winter and twice-yearly Navratri. In accordance with Hindu dietary laws, only vegetarian foods and sweets are served at these celebrations. Hindi, Sanskrit and Punjabi are widely spoken at the site, and traditional bows are the standard greeting.

  • Beyond traditional American fare, all our sites strive to serve as many culturally familiar foods as we can, while making necessary accommodations for specific health needs. Consequently, lunch service across our system can mean borscht or bulgogi, tandoori or dumplings, oxtail or arroz con pollo.


Participant Satisfaction on the Rise

Complementing our strong clinical, team-based multicultural care, we’ve recently adopted new, internal processes to promote participant satisfaction – and we’re starting to see their impact.

A recent, independent study demonstrated that 83% of our participants are “satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with our program.* Overall, CenterLight’s Net Promoter Score (an established metric for brand loyalty) has nearly doubled from 20 in 2015 to 38 in 2019, which is industry-leading among health plans.*

Of course, in healthcare, there’s always room for more progress – and we’ll never stop pursuing it. But at CenterLight Teamcare, cultural competence is already helping us achieve excellence and cement our position as a leader in PACE – the healthcare delivery model of the future for older adults.

*CenterLight Healthcare PACE Participant Satisfaction Survey, May 7, 2019.  Study conducted by HawkPartners at the behest of and sponsored by CenterLight Healthcare.

H3329_BLOG_CulturallySensitiveCare Approved 07232019
Last updated July 3, 2019

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