Wellness strategy: targeting at-risk New Yorkers with check-in calls

Published June 2, 2020

Reaching out when it matters. For the Health of America.

BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York and BlueShield of Northeastern New York launched a proactive strategy of wellness check-ins for at-risk populations in New York, increasing engagement and support amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Pressing pause on scheduling regular medical appointments and elective procedures has become common for many Americans. While these delays minimize the spread of COVID-19, they have the potential to threaten the overall health of communities hit hardest by the pandemic. When New York was identified as one of the early hot spots for infections BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York and BlueShield of Northeastern New York (BCBSWNY and BSNENY) launched a unique outreach campaign to support its members. The program is called COVID-19 Member Well-being Outreach Program. In just weeks following the onset of the pandemic, members began receiving personalized outreach calls offering telehealth support, assistance with online prescriptions, education and additional resources focused on improving their health as members continue following stay-at-home guidance.

Solution: proactive outreach

The team at BCBSWNY and BSNENY kicked off the program with a questionnaire designed to identify and address current health needs and to offer much needed engagement with their members during the COVID-19 crisis. They are targeting 15,000 members identified as at-risk each month within their 800,000 plus membership. To engage these members the company's outreach begins with a warm, caring introduction to alleviate stress and anxiety during the phone call, and establish a safe place for the member to share their needs. Most times, the conversation is led by the member, with a specialized nurse or team member on the other side trained to recognize areas of concern, sometimes based on tone of voice. The team also adjusted its member verification protocol to maintain privacy and increase trust - recognizing heightened concerns regarding telemarketing fraud could create barriers to someone answering the phone.

“Our team connects our members to doctors, medications and information about their benefits regularly, but given the current health crisis, we knew we had to do something more, said Dr. Thomas Schenk, Executive Vice President, Chief Medical Officer, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York and BlueShield of Northeastern New York. "Being able to access food, transportation and even socialization are extremely important components of a person’s health, especially during times like these, and our team is stepping up to help make sure our members have what they need,” he said.

Keys to success

  • Identify at-risk members using healthcare analytics predictive modeling reports
  • Focus on overall health and well-being... not just COVID symptoms
  • Utilize case managers, nurses and social workers
  • Maintain tracking mechanisms and repeat check-in calls where appropriate

Results so far

As of early May 2020, BCBSWNY and BSNENY have completed outreach calls to more than 11,500 members, achieving a 51% successful engagement rate. Outreach team leaders report many members are relieved to hear a friendly voice after weeks of isolation under stay-at-home orders. In one case, a member having difficulty obtaining groceries was set up with Meals on Wheels. In another case, a member needing to take a medical sleep study was paired with resources to allow them to take the test at home, an unlikely outcome without this proactive approach. The team also makes note of the variety of questions they receive including 'Is it safe to go to my doctor's office?" The interactions are logged and tracked allowing the company to follow up if necessary.

In addition to the member outreach efforts, the health plan is also committed to supporting members through technology by offering free access to a highly interactive app that offers support for those dealing with anxiety, stress and depression as well as chronic pain and sleep challenges. The app features modules that can help manage heightened stress and feelings of social isolation due to COVID-19, as well as manage their overall health.

BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York and BlueShield of Northeastern New York are independent licensees of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 35 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.