Advocating for members throughout their health care journey

Navigating the health care system — whether it’s a short hospital stay or managing an ongoing condition — can be confusing and time-consuming for employees and their families.

It’s something UnitedHealthcare advocates like Christie Anderson understand firsthand. As a team leader in enhanced advocacy models, she helps to solve some of the more stressful situations for employees to their resolution. Anderson recently received an emotional call from a member who was delaying care. He thought he was going to temporality lose coverage transitioning from his employer plan to Medicare for retirement.

To help clear up the confusion, Anderson reached out to his employer’s human resources department, serving as bridge to assist the member, who also did not speak English as a first language. Then she contacted the provider to schedule the appointment for him.

3 key takeaways on advocacy

  1. Advocacy solutions help guide members at each step including onboarding, coordinating care, wellness programs and support to help make more informed heath care and financial decisions.
  2. Cost and coverage drive 60% of a member’s experience.1
  3. Advocates go beyond customer service, helping to provide whole-person guidance across a broad number of health care needs, such as emotional health, clinical and complex care support, financial and benefits/claims.

“The end-to-end care was so important. He didn’t know where to start. He was really grateful,” says Anderson, a team leader in the UnitedHealthcare enhanced advocacy program.

UnitedHealthcare uses a multi-pronged advocacy approach to help employees navigate the health system. The company’s advocacy solutions -- backed by clinical, behavioral and pharmacy services under one roof -- offers employers the data and insights needed to evolve their benefit plans.

This approach has become even more important as employers seek to retain and attract talent in a competitive job market by offering more robust and personalized benefits.

"People have unique needs. They're looking for more of a balance between work, quality of life and purpose,” says Rebecca Madsen, Chief Consumer Officer with UnitedHealthcare. “Strong advocacy in their benefits package is one tool through which an employer can demonstrate all of the values employees are looking for: personalization, compassion and that someone is looking out for them.”

As part of the member experience, advocacy solutions are designed to deliver:

  • Proactive guidance though data and insights
  • Compassionate, empathic service in every interaction
  • Simplified experiences by streamlining the benefits experience

Compassionate, empathic service in every interaction

More than 12 million members are already being served by the core advocacy solutions offered through UnitedHealthcare.

This member experience starts early in a member’s health journey, with proactive onboarding beginning during plan enrollment. It helps set members up for success by evaluating whether their usual providers are network or out-of-network (OON). Medications are also reviewed for any comparable lower-cost alternatives based on their plan.

For additional support, Advocate4Me® uses predictive personalization to help connect employees to the most appropriate resources when they call. Advocates are available through the phone, live chat, email or text.

Advocates go beyond customer service, providing whole-person guidance across a broad number of health care needs, such as mental health, clinical and complex care support, financial and benefits/claims. They use a dashboard that offers a comprehensive view of the member, including their current health condition, history of calls, utilization of myuhc.com® and the UnitedHealthcare® app, utilization of the health system, clinical recommendations and health account information.

“Being able to quickly view the information for an HRA or FSA account, give more referral options more quickly and easily, and update communication methods very easily has been greatly appreciated by the UnitedHealthcare representatives on the floor,” says Sammi Flentje, a team leader in the UnitedHealthcare enhanced advocacy program.

Proactive outreach by advocates can include when a member receives a prior authorization request for certain identified clinical codes for treatments or surgeries. Knowing those certain treatments and surgeries are often accompanied by ensuing claims for durable medical equipment (DME), medication and follow-up care, the advocate can begin to help provide information to the member proactively to help steer them to quality, lower-cost options for those items and services they may need in the future.

“When a lot of people think of advocacy, they’re thinking customer service and call center support,” says Geoff Bushman, Product Director of Advocacy at UnitedHealthcare. “But the overall goal of advocacy is to help guide members to make better decisions.”

Next-level advocacy: Elite and Premier

UnitedHealthcare offers enhanced advocacy with Elite and Premier service and support models that currently cover more than 3 million members.  These enhanced advocacy levels feature dedicated representatives for employee populations who can provide more personalized interactions.

Elite and Premier has been proven to help lower the total cost of care and resulted in better clinical outcomes for members. This approach involves:

  • Leveraging data from medical claims to catch chronic conditions sooner
  • Finding and addressing gaps in care
  • Identifying clinically effective treatments
  • Looking for lower-cost alternatives for medications
  • Seeking opportunities for better health and lower costs

Employers who have engaged enhanced advocacy services have seen1:

  • 2-4% medical total cost of care savings
  • 4% lower inpatient admissions
  • 10% lower ER visits
  • 18% increased clinical program engagement

Integrating benefits to help simplify the member experience

Supported by teams skilled in health care delivery, UnitedHealthcare’s end-to-end ownership of a whole-health portfolio — from health care benefits to care providers — helps to deliver integrated solutions for a simpler member experience.

Integrated medical benefits with specialty (dental, vision and financial protection), pharmacy and behavioral, may create opportunities to diagnose and manage chronic conditions sooner, help identify and deploy clinically effective treatments, intervene early in behavioral issues and more.

Chronic conditions are the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S. --- driving $3.8 trillion in annual health care costs.2  And it’s estimated that unaddressed mental health issues such as depression and anxiety cost the U.S. economy $1 trillion in lost productivity each year.3

“Given that health care is the second largest expense for employers after salaries, companies have been looking for innovative ways to better support the health and well-being of their employees,” Madsen says.

Integrated benefits also bolster advocacy efforts in helping to create adherence to medical and cost decision-making to help drive greater engagement. In fact, employees accept 57% of clinical programs offered in Advocate4Me.4

Enhancing tools to meet changing member needs

Keeping the member at the center also means continually making enhancements so that tools and resources are easier to use. From a member’s perspective, this includes closing the loop when they’ve reached out for help or proactively providing timely information about a health or financial decision and other support.

Another significant consideration is an increase in behavioral health issues as people struggle with stress and unexpected pressure due to the pandemic. More than half of consumers reported their mental health was affected during the pandemic.⁵

To help address this situation, UnitedHealthcare created a dedicated Behavioral Health advocacy team with resources to help guide members to the care they need. Enhanced advocacy models have dedicated nurse pods for behavioral health.

“We have the tools to help employees be more resilient ranging from self-help to in-person treatment,” says Trevor Porath, Vice President, Clinical, Behavioral, and Advocacy Solutions at UnitedHealthcare. “We also want to be able to identify those who may need support sooner before it becomes a crisis. Our low severity solutions help employees build coping mechanisms for their stress and anxiety.”

In addition to recognizing the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on mental health, another area to address for employees is how social determinants of health such as social support and income impact well-being of employees. After all, research showed that while the quality of clinical care accounts for about 20% of overall positive health, social determinants of health such as employment, family and social support, and community safety drive approximately 80% of health outcomes.6

Using predictive analytics providing behind-the-scenes intelligence, UnitedHealthcare is able to identify employees who may be in need of support and proactively offer them help.

When an identified member calls in, the advocate receiving their call gets an alert, helping them to engage with the member and connect them to helpful resources and programs. If the identified member visits myuhc.com, their personalized homepage promotes recommendations that guide them to the resources and support they may need.

“Your health is one of the most important things in your life,” Madsen says. “So we need to be sensitive to obstacles people may be facing and give our advocacy teams the tools to help members more easily find the care and support they need.” 

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Video: Advocating for employees every step of the way

Rebecca Madsen, Chief Consumer Officer with UnitedHealthcare, explains the importance of advocacy in helping employees make better health decision which may ultimately lead to better health outcomes and cost savings.

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