Industry News

Navigating COVID-19 in the health insurance industry: The view from EmblemHealth

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a variety of challenges for payers, their employees and their members. It has required the health care industry to reach members and patients through different channels, providing answers and reassurance, and providing care in new ways. To learn more about the impact, SmartBrief spoke with Jennifer Truscott, chief of operations for EmblemHealth family of companies, on how her organization is dealing with and adapting to these challenges.

Truscott
Jennifer Truscott

What has been most challenging for your company and members during the pandemic?

Reflecting back on the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, EmblemHealth hit the trifecta. Most of our employees, the majority of our 3.2 million members and all of the nearly half-million patients we serve at our medical group, AdvantageCare Physicians, are New York-based. Therefore, they were at the center of the pandemic. We had to quickly balance our staff’s safety while continuing to be a source of truth and care, and a resource for our members and patients. Our digital footprint had to be expanded in short order as we established remote work and telehealth capabilities. This became the baseline from which we continue to adapt and expand.

What have been the most important lessons, and how has your leadership navigated them?

Meeting our members where, when and how they needed us gave them peace of mind and allowed us to expand beyond the services we typically provide. At the end of the day, providing an empathetic ear and being a community resource matters the most. 

Health plans did a lot to support members and health care providers as the scope of the pandemic became clear. What was the biggest change you made, and what was the impact?

We got our gritty resiliency on. Regardless of what our members needed, we worked to resolve and provide them with timely insight and results. We put forth a comprehensive communications plan to keep members, patients, staff and the public regularly informed and updated; we quickly answered and responded to frequently asked questions; and we armed our colleagues on the front lines with support and real-time information as new data, learnings and updates presented themselves.

It seems clear that this industry will never be the same. Could you describe what you see as the new normal for the health care experience?

Because this pandemic impacted all aspects of our lives and hit some communities harder than others, it became clear that understanding individuals' cultural and social economic realities, and their barriers to care, were imperative. When you gain these insights and perspectives, you learn how we, as an industry, must expand high-tech and high-touch points to the people we care for.

In this recent crisis, we’ve seen how under-leveraged digital platforms have been. EmblemHealth saw this as an opportunity to better serve our members and their needs. We’ve increased and enhanced our touchpoints with our communities by adopting more innovative yet grass-roots approaches to care to reach our most vulnerable populations. We’ve increased telehealth services, facilitated virtual town halls with members, and launched text messaging services between doctors and patients. We also repeatedly conduct wellness checks via phone and email with our most vulnerable and high-risk members and patients.

We became more nimble and agile in our execution and took risks and new steps — not to achieve perfection, but to help ensure the safety and health of our communities.

Jennifer Truscott serves as the chief of operations for the EmblemHealth family of companies. Truscott is responsible for EmblemHealth’s customer-facing operations, including customer experience, claims, and call centers.