Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Innovating the customer service experience

Ensuring that health plan members have a smooth and helpful customer service experience is a top priority at UnitedHealthcare, and we’re working hard to innovate our customer service systems. My colleague, Dan Tropeano, executive director of UnitedHealthcare of Pennsylvania and Delaware, wrote a great article recently about Advocate4Me, UnitedHealthcare’s new customer service initiative:

“Many people dread the idea of calling customer service, afraid they’ll hang up the phone more frustrated than when they called.

Delivering a quality customer service experience is a challenge in the health insurance industry. The complicated health care system coupled with the fact that most people are calling when they are facing frightening health issues creates a tough situation.

At UnitedHealthcare, we’re working hard to improve the customer service experience with our new initiative, Advocate4Me.

Advocate4Me simplifies the customer experience in several ways. First, a single advocate is assigned to see each member through each health issue. Every time a health plan member needs to talk to someone at UnitedHealthcare about an issue, such as a knee surgery or cancer treatment, they can talk to the same person until the issue is solved, which helps customers trust that they are working with someone who understands their problem and will take charge of solving it.

Secondly, the advocate works on the customer’s behalf to utilize UnitedHealthcare’s vast resources to solve the customer’s problem. Resources include top experts in medical, behavioral, clinical and pharmaceutical sciences, plus cutting-edge technology.

Finally and most importantly, advocates understand that customers may be overwhelmed with worry about their health issues and frustrated by what can be a complicated health care system. So when customers call, advocates try to make them feel understood, cared for and at ease.

To read more about Advocate4Me, check out Forbes Magazine's recent article featuring interviews with Dr. Magliori, executive vice president and chief medical officer of UnitedHealth Group, and Chris Carlson, vice president of customer experience at UnitedHealthcare, about the new Advocate4Me initiative."

Friday, July 10, 2015

Manage stress at the office

Forty percent of workers report that their job is very or extremely stressful, according to a survey by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). And 75 percent of workers say they suffer more job-related stress than workers did in the previous generation.

Employers should recognize that stress in the workplace can have negative effects on employees’ health. Severe stress can cause people to develop digestive issues, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a weakened immune system, weight gain and mental health issues. In fact, the United Health Foundation’s 2014 America’s Health Rankings show that people in New Jersey report experiencing 3.3 poor mental health days every month - days in which an employee is physically at work, but not fully productive due to stress and physical or mental health issues.

Ultimately, stress may affect work performance, personal and professional relationships and even the employer’s bottom line. But there are some tips that employers can follow to help reduce employees’ stress:
·         Create opportunities for exercise. Exercise is one of the best stress-busters, and can help people improve their mood and control their weight. Employers may consider offering group exercise classes at the office, or simply encourage employees to leave their desks to take a walk.
·         Teach employees relaxation techniques. Bring an expert to the workplace to help employees learn relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation. Mindful meditation can help employees let go of stress and regain their focus.  While the techniques are simple, achieving the desired result takes practice.
·         Make time for stress-relief activities. Taking the time to plan a few fun employee events – be it an office trivia game or a monthly employee lunch – can relieve tension in the office.
·         Lighten the mood. Psychologically, laughter may act as a coping mechanism to reduce stress, improve self-esteem and lower levels of loneliness and depression. Positive humor at the office can help people get along better with their co-workers, and be more productive at work. For example, hang funny comics on the bulletin board near the water cooler, or share a funny video. It’s important, however, that the humor is positive, inclusive and never aimed at insulting anyone.

To kick off a lower-stress atmosphere at the office, check out UHC-TV’s “Mood Lifters” channel. Here are a couple of videos to get started:

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

New Jersey seventh graders know their health facts

Q: What type of healthy fatty acid is found in fish?

A: Omega-3 fatty acid

Questions like these at the 2015 UnitedHealthcare Health Bee competitions proved that New Jersey’s seventh-grade students are getting smart about their health.

The UnitedHealthcare Health Bee is a high-energy, Jeopardy-style competition that tests middle school students on their knowledge about nutrition, physical activity and general health and science. UnitedHealthcare partners with the YMCA to host the program, and includes the competition as a component of the YMCA’s 7th Grade Initiative.

Research indicates that seventh grade is a key junction in a young teen’s attitudes and behaviors regarding body image, health, nutrition and self-esteem.  The seventh grade initiative aims to help students at this critical time develop healthy habits that will follow them into adulthood.  At many YMCA branches, the program includes nutrition, fitness and social programs and a free pre-teen membership to the Y with access to the exercise equipment, pool and gym.
The team from Herbert Hoover Middle School buzzes in at the 2015 UnitedHealthcare Health Bee, held in partnership with the MEWSA YMCA on April 30, 2015 
The Health Bee builds on the program by adding an education component and fun competition that gives students an opportunity show off their health smarts to their friends and family. UnitedHealthcare awards grants to the teams that win first place, second place and the School Spirit Award to support healthy programs at their schools.

At the UnitedHealthcare Health Bee in Elizabeth, N.J., Dr. Orlando Edreira Academy No. 26 took home first place and a $1,000 grant to support healthy programs at school.
UnitedHealthcare began the Health Bee in 2009 at the Westfield Area YMCA in New Jersey. Since then, the program has become so popular that we have expanded it to several other YMCA branches. This spring, we had the pleasure of hosting four competitions in New Jersey with the help of the Westfield Area YMCA, the Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA, the MEWSA (Metuchen, Edison, Woodbridge & South Amboy) YMCA, and the Gateway Family YMCA.
Teams and their friends and families are encouraged to show a lot of school spirit and  support for one another, encouraging a fun, positive attitude about health. Here, the team from Terrill Middle School shows off their team pride at the Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA.
Here are some photos that capture the fun of this year’s competitions. It was a pleasure to see so many New Jersey students get excited about their health, and I look forward to next year’s competition!

UnitedHealthcare and the Westfield area YMCA celebrated the sixth year of the annual UnitedHealthcare Health Bee. Seventh-grade students from Hillside Avenue took home second place and a $500 grant.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Be prepared to care for health on vacation

Nothing ruins a fun summer vacation like getting sick or injured.

But every destination carries health risks, whether it’s getting food poisoning in Mexico, having a heart attack climbing the Rocky Mountains or getting stung by a jellyfish at the Jersey shore. Not only is it tough dealing with an injury or illness, but many people become overwhelmed by dealing with unfamiliar doctors, hospitals and clinics.

Here are some tips to help minimize health concerns before taking a trip:
  1. Make sure you bring your health insurance identification card and other important travel documents.
  2. Call your health insurer before you leave to make sure you understand your health coverage options at your destination. Some insurers, including UnitedHealthcare, offer extended coverage for international medical expenses.
  3. Visit the Center for Disease Control and other government websites for information on prevalent diseases and other health alerts affecting foreign destinations.
  4. Make sure everyone in the family has the recommended vaccinations.
  5. In areas where there is a high risk of contaminated water, use only bottled water to drink and to brush your teeth. Peel fruits and vegetables.
  6. Bring enough of prescription medications to cover at least 2-3 days longer than the trip will last in case there is a delay or a pill is accidentally damaged.
  7. If traveling by airplane, carry prescription medications in their original containers in a carry-on bag and label them clearly.
  8. Bring your physician’s contact information in case there is a medical emergency.
  9. If traveling to a country where people speak a different language, learn the words for “doctor,” “emergency” and “hospital” in the native language.
  10. For international travelers, contact the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers of the Nearest U.S. embassy to find medical facilities and English-speaking doctors in the area where you plan to travel. 
No one wants to deal with health issues on vacation. But by preparing before you leave, you can minimize the hazards of dealing with an unfamiliar medical system and get back to enjoying the beach, hiking the wilderness or exploring a city as quickly as possible.

I wish everyone a happy, safe and healthy 4th of July!