The thoughts expressed in this Guest Opinion are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of S&P Global.
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In March of 2020, Dr. Si France’s worst fears were coming true. Cases of COVID-19 were rapidly escalating in California and a shelter in place order was issued on March 19, 2020. As CEO and founder of WelbeHealth, a California-based healthcare services company designed to offer comprehensive, value-based care to medically frail seniors, Dr. France knew his patient population was severely at risk. The WelbeHealth team now faced the overwhelming responsibility of caring for their patients and staff who could not leave their homes.
Serving the most vulnerable during a time of crises, however, is not far off from Dr. Si France’s mission. As a graduate of Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine and Tuck School of Business, Dr. France spent his years in the Upper Valley in New Hampshire focusing on improvements in the healthcare system and how to build a career of impact. After running a startup driven by a business plan, Dr. France realized he wanted to lead a different type of organization, one that cared for its employees who then cared for their patients. “You can't give what you don't have. If [employees] do not feel loved and cared for, they will not be able to treat their patients like that,” says France. “But what if they are loved and cared for? Then imagine what they can do for their patients?”
France’s realizations laid the groundwork for WelbeHealth and its core value of Courage to Love. WelbeHealth looks to serve the most vulnerable seniors with greater quality and compassion by first creating a culture that cares for its employees. “When we have a 95-year-old patient, we remember that this person was also someone's son or daughter,” France notes. Since its inception, WelbeHealth has served senior patients who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid and have found depression rates drop by 80% and life expectancy improve by a third.
However, with COVID-19, WelbeHealth’s services were bluntly disrupted, and the lives of its patients were now even more at risk. France and WelbeHealth’s President, Dr. Matt Patterson, realized they had to be quick and bold. The team quickly designed a new care model that would be safe for patients and staff during the pandemic. COVID-19 testing began immediately. Tablets were stationed at every home. And the balance sheet was fortified to withstand worst case scenarios. Despite the losses during this turbulent time, WelbeHealth kept all its employees and saved upwards of 50 patients who would have perished without this new care model. WelbeHealth also sought to serve the communities it operated in. True to its mission and culture, WelbeHealth rapidly mobilized its team and resources to launch a vaccination site right on its parking lot. As of April 2021, more than 350 individuals had been vaccinated thanks to the volunteer work of the WelbeHealth team and their families.
As WelbeHealth looks to expand its mission and scope, France is keenly aware that 18 states still do not have PACE, a program found to safer for seniors with 85-95% lower COVID-19 infection and mortality rates compared to nursing homes. Still, with aspirations to serve as many people as possible, WelbeHealth has grown to service areas in Fresno, Stockton–Modesto, Pasadena, and Long Beach. For this to work, Dr. Si France and his team prioritize operational excellence and meet weekly to identify bottlenecks for both existing and new sites. According to Dr. France, “We can only grow a center as fast as we can be excellent.”