This is the second in our Aiming for the Hearts of their Customers interview series, with seven Minnesota customer experience leaders sharing their strategy for the coming year. You can see all of the interviews here:
Imagine leading a customer experience program serving a very diverse population that speaks dozens of languages, has many members new to this country, and many on medical assistance, struggling to raise a family without a stable home. And you’re doing this as a non-profit. That’s the challenge UCare faced when they began formalizing their customer experience program in 2013.
UCare is a health plan primarily serving members through government programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid and other government assistance programs. Ghita Worcester is the Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Marketing at UCare, one of two executive sponsors of their customer experience program.
Ghita explains UCare’s customer experience strategy: “We focus on the whole continuum – not just how members feel when they work with our customer service teams, but how they feel when they work with us operationally, from our clinical services, all the way through to whether they felt they were treated fairly when they went to a provider or a hospital. And the provider’s experience with the plan includes how the member comes to them.”
Ghita explained how their varied population impacted their customer experience work. “Close to 100,000 members [of UCare’s 300,000+ population] are in Medicare Advantage and are over 65 years old. They have different needs – They are used to high-touch interactions. They want to be on the phone longer, some are hard of hearing. Then you have members on our Medicaid program, including many families with children, who may not have a regular phone number. They might call you from a neighbor’s house or somebody else’s phone number. So when they call, we need to make the conversation as comprehensive as possible.”
“We also work with an incredible number of languages. We’ve learned that a larger part of the experience comes from members’ cultural beliefs and how they were treated in their previous country’s healthcare system. For example, when our Hmong membership grew significantly, we realized the critical role culture has on how this population interacts with us and the health care system. We partnered with Stratis Health to develop Culture Care Connection, a website with information on the different beliefs and backgrounds of key populations in Minnesota. This site helps our providers learn more about our diverse membership. At UCare we believe that to deliver the experience we want to provide, we need to understand where our members and providers are at better than anyone else.
I asked Ghita how they bring these varied populations to life for their over 700 employees. “We do a lot of training, as you would expect, including corporate events that feature the providers and agencies that directly serve members from various backgrounds and ethnicities. Staff in our customer and clinical services teams receives additional cultural competency training, and the Chief Medical Officer and I co-chair the Diversity and Cultural Competence Committee where we really look into the difference in outcomes by populations. For example, we examine if populations are experiencing high or low birth rates? Why or why not? This helps us to target our efforts where they are most needed.”
In late 2013, Ghita led efforts to launch an internal website called “We are UCare” which highlights the day-to-day life or work of a member, a provider and a small team of UCare staff. Each profile includes a picture and summary of what each audience enjoys about life/work and the challenges they face. Ghita noted, “We are UCare provides an opportunity for all of UCare to connect with the people we come to work to serve each day. For staff that have limited to no direct contact with members and providers, this is a very important platform. By putting real names with faces and their stories, it creates a stronger connection to our mission and our goal to provide the best experience in our market.”
UCare will move into the commercial marketplace as part of MNsure. Ghita notes, “Working with this new membership will be a learning experience for us.”
In addition, they are continuing to learn about the best way to communicate with members. “We do a lot of outbound phone calls to members, and we’re trying to determine whether these are the best ways to reach members. We just did a pilot using text messaging with pregnant women about their post-partum visits, and we’re just starting to get those results back. The best way to communicate varies widely for the different segments of our membership. We’re always learning something new.”
“We’re expecting to grow to over 400,000 members in the next year. As we do that, we will keep our eye on our member experience to ensure it continues to be engaging for all of our members.