RN Isolina Pistolessi with new Spanish-speaking patient. She gave him material and took him on a tour of the facility.
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High-performing teams are going the extra mile to welcome new Kaiser Permanente members, because it helps keep members healthy and happy—and helps KP grow. But a Mid-Atlantic States unit-based team is going even further by walking that extra mile in their members’ shoes.
The first step for the Adult Primary Care UBT in Falls Church, an ethnically diverse community in Northern Virginia, was to tap Spanish-speaking staff members to welcome some 3,200 new Spanish-speaking members to Kaiser Permanente. The new members were janitorial and security workers represented by SEIU 32BJ, a local union account won through joint marketing efforts in the region.
But the team found the language barrier was just the tip of the iceberg. What these new members needed, like any others, was help navigating the KP system.
“We focused initially on the new group, but we realized many members have difficulty navigating the system,” said clinical assistant Nubia Wahezi, a Spanish-speaking team member and OPEIU Local 2 member who helped welcome the SEIU members.
The team already was piloting the New Member Identifier tool in KP HealthConnect™, which flags KP members who have just joined and members who have not had a visit in three years, to enhance their experience when they do visit.
The welcome wagon
The tool, also piloted in the Colorado and Georgia regions, aims to improve service, engage and retain members, and introduce them to KP’s unique integrated care model.
“We had this great technology, and the question was, how could we use it to engage with our members at the frontline level,” says Janelle S. Williams, consultant specialist for frontline engagement for growth in the Office of Labor Management Partnership.
New members do not always identify themselves, she says, but research shows members appreciate a warm welcome and are more likely to remain with Kaiser Permanente if they are shown how to maximize their benefits. “This is definitely one of the ways frontline employees can be empowered to impact membership growth and retention,” Williams says.
In addition to language interpreters, the team encouraged the new members to select primary care physicians and come in for initial visits.
The road map
“Knowing where to go, what avenue to take, makes a big difference, says Isolina Pistolessi, RN, labor co-lead of the Falls Church team and a UFCW Local 400 member.
The team used:
- Staff outreach phone calls. Nurses and other staff members called new members to set up appointments with primary care physicians, help refill any existing prescriptions and address any other member needs.
- Targeted welcome letters. These letters included a road map explaining how to get started as a Kaiser Permanente member and patient, where to find the pharmacy and lab, and other information.
- In-reach. When new members come in for visits, the team hands out laminated cards with contact numbers and a new member kit and offers one-on-one tours of the facility.
Thanks largely to the influx of 32BJ members, the center has welcomed about 30 new members each month. The next step is rolling out a new tool designed by the regional Office of Diversity.
The tool will guide new patients through taking specific steps to becoming more involved in their own care, says Tracy Vang, senior diversity consultant, whose office helps employees and physicians provide culturally competent care and services.
“This will help the patient navigate through the KP system,” she says. “We are putting ourselves in the role of a new member who wants to know in a nutshell what services are available and how to access them.”
The payoff: service, care, satisfaction
The results? Patient satisfaction survey scores for the medical center have risen steadily: 84.6 percent of patients gave KP favorable scores in the first quarter of 2012, 85 percent in the second quarter and 87.4 percent in the third quarter.
Preena Gujural, improvement specialist for the internal medicine and family practice team, said research shows proper welcoming and orientation make a difference in retaining that member.
“Personalization does have an impact,” she says. It also may help members take better care of themselves.
Pistolessi spent two days with a team of seven Spanish-speaking staff calling new members flagged by the New Member Identifier. If a member didn’t speak English fluently, team members pitched in with Spanish, or called interpreters for other languages. The extra effort has paid off.
“They are coming by to get their vaccines, routine checkups,” Pistolessi says. “Things that need to happen are happening.”
Cassandra M. Hodziewich, MD, a family practice physician, says the attention to new members has improved members’ access to care and follow-up treatment. “More of them are getting needed labs, screenings such as mammograms,” she says. “I think that it’s made a difference in the quality of their care.”
Want to go the extra mile to welcome new members? As KP’s membership increases and becomes more diverse, reaching out is more important than ever. Unit-based teams can keep members healthy and happy—and help KP grow. It’s simple:
- Identify new members who come into your unit or department for care or information.
- Listen to their questions or concerns.
- Share this New Member Map (developed by the Falls Church, Va., team and the regional Diversity Office) to help new members navigate the KP system.