Monday, August 18, 2014

Celebrating America’s Health Centers and Healthier Communities

As the health care system changes around us, more people are gaining access to health insurance coverage - yet there are still more than 60 million Americans who do not have access to primary care. According to the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), nearly half (42 percent) of these individuals are low-income, 28 percent live in rural areas—and do have health insurance.

That’s where Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) come in.  In the United States, more than 1,200 Centers receive grants under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (PHS) and serve 22 million patients (including more than 920,000 farmworkers and 1,145,000 people who are homeless) at 9,000 locations. The FQHCs qualify for enhanced reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid, as well as other benefits as long as they assist underserved populations, offer a sliding fee scale, provide comprehensive services, and have an ongoing quality assurance program and a community-based governing board of directors.

UnitedHealthcare helps support Health Centers through a broad network of dedicated health care specialists and hospitals – and the need is great; one out of every 15 people living in the United States seeks primary health care from a Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA)-funded Health Center. As part of our partnership with FQHCs, UnitedHealthcare regularly seeks advice and input from FQHC leaders through our National FQHC Advisory Group; participates in the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) industry conferences; collaborates with local Primary Care Associations (PCA) and, during National Health Center Week each year, takes time to recognize our nine-year involvement and shared mission to help people live healthier lives regardless of their age, income or ability. 

Last week UnitedHealthcare celebrated National Health Center Week with centers across the country, we are thankful for each and every one of our partners and the commitment we share to help people access the quality health care services they deserve.

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Monday, August 4, 2014

PA’s Diverse Scholars attend health forum in D.C.

Meet Sophia Barrios, a sophomore majoring in bio-behavioral health at Pennsylvania State University who intends to become a doctor of osteopathic medicine and serve underrepresented communities, particularly children. Sophia is the secretary of Penn State’s Latino Caucus, an umbrella organization for 19 Latino organizations, and a 2014 United Health Foundation Diverse Scholar.

Chiemeka Onyima of Philadelphia’s East Falls/Germantown area is a first year medical student at Drexel University College of Medicine. He holds a bachelor of science in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.  Onyima intends to become an anesthesiologist and specialize in pain medicine. He hopes to devote much of his career to developing hospitals and improving health care in West Africa.

Sophia and Chiemeka were awarded scholarships from United Health Foundation’s Diverse Scholars Initiative to pursue careers in primary health care. 

United Health Foundation’s Diverse Scholars Initiative, will award nearly $2 million in scholarships during the 2014-15 school years to students from diverse, multicultural backgrounds. The initiative aims to increase diversity in the health care workforce by supporting promising future health professionals as they pursue their education. The Diverse Scholars program is part of United Health Foundation’s ongoing commitment to building a more diverse health workforce.

Since 2007, United Health Foundation has awarded more than 1,400 scholarships totaling $9.3 million to support diverse students pursing health careers.

United Health Foundation announced the 2014-15 scholarships at its sixth annual Diverse Scholars Forum. This year’s forum is the largest yet, bringing more than 100 scholarship recipients to Washington, D.C., from July 23 to 26, to celebrate their accomplishments and inspire them to work toward strengthening the nation's health care system. This year's forum provided the scholars with opportunities to hear from members of Congress and leaders in a variety of health fields, and to network with and learn from one another.

Congratulations to Sophia, Chiemeka and all of the scholarship recipients. I look forward to the celebrating the advances in health care that will come from your dedication and commitment to helping all Americans.

For more information about the Diverse Scholars Initiative, visit http://www.unitedhealthfoundation.org/Initiatives/FutureHealthWorkforce/DiverseScholars.aspx

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Business Plan Competition for Women Business Owners

Two years ago when the Governor asked me to be chairperson of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women I was humbled and honored to serve this group of sharp, accomplished and dedicated women, all business and community leaders. 

Serving as the chair of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women has been especially rewarding to me because the goals and objectives of the Commission so closely align with those of the company I represent, UnitedHealthcare.  Through its employee programs, women’s health initiatives, and outreach into the community, UnitedHealthcare is committed to helping women achieve their full potential in their careers, their families, their communities and their health.

In just two short years the Commission has made great strides identifying and advancing the diverse needs and interests of Pennsylvania women and girls.  By monitoring women’s educational and employment needs, promoting job training and encouraging the operation and support of women owned businesses, the Pennsylvania Commission for Women has truly made a difference. 

And, there is much more to come. Partnering with the Pennsylvania Chapters of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) we are proud to announce a Business Plan Competition for women business owners in Pennsylvania.  The competition will showcase emerging businesses and celebrate female entrepreneurship.

The Business Plan Competition is open to women business owners in Pennsylvania who started their business on or after January 1, 2012.  NAWBO Greater Pittsburgh, NAWBO Greater Philadelphia and NAWBO Northeast PA, will each select one finalist based on the application information and interviews. The finalists will compete at the 2014 Women’s Mentorship Symposium on Sept. 30, 2014, in Pittsburgh.

Finalists will present fast-pitch business plans to a panel of three judges, including Lori Greiner, the “warm blooded shark” on the hit entrepreneurial business show “Shark Tank” on ABC; Julia Hearthway, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry; and Renee Amoore, founder and president of The Amoore Group, Inc.

The winning business owner will receive a $10,000 cash prize to assist in the implementation of their business plan and each of the three finalists will receive a one year NAWBO membership or renewal.  Private contributions will fund the competition.

Eligible business owners must submit an “Intent to Compete” form by Thursday, Aug. 14.  For additional information on the Business Plan Competition, including the rules and application process, please visit www.nawbopabizplancomp.org.

For more information about UnitedHealthcare’s dedicated resources visit us on Facebook.  Our “Source4Women” online community is making a difference in the health of women across the country.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ron Jaworski and UnitedHealthcare volunteers built playground for Darby, PA community

Swing sets become make-shift airplanes.  A brand new tree bench can become home base for an old school game of tag. And slides are the perfect place to lie down and figure out what animal shapes the clouds resemble.

For children, a playground is far more than just a set of equipment. Playgrounds are brain-expanders, friend-makers and muscle-builders. 

That’s why UnitedHealthcare’s “Do Good. Live Well.” employee volunteer initiative teamed up with nonprofit organization Kaboom! to build a new playground for the children at Park Lane Elementary School in Darby, an urban neighborhood in Pennsylvania’s Delaware County.  In addition to over 50 UnitedHealthcare volunteers, our team of hard working builders included over 100 community members and our special hands-on helper, former quarterback and ESPN football analyst Ron Jaworski.

Ron Jaworski helping the Darby community build their new playground!

In June, we held a Design Day and asked Park Lane Elementary School students to submit drawings of their dream playgrounds.  The kids got pretty creative, and we hope the finished playground continues to inspire creativity in their play for years to come.

Dan Tropeano, Executive Director of UnitedHealthcare of Pennsylvania and Delawre helping a community volunteer.

Active, healthy play is central to a child’s ability to grow into a thoughtful, productive adult. This playground will bring more than 1,500 kids in Darby one step closer to having the physically, mentally and socially active childhood they deserve. 

Thank you to all of the volunteers from UnitedHealthcare, KaBOOM! and the Darby community!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How do others perceive you in the workplace?

The most eye-opening feedback I ever received was from my young son.  One night when he was seven years old, he asked for my help with his homework.  I was delighted, and we sat down together at the table.  While he worked through his assignment, I managed to get a little of my own work done on my Blackberry.

When my son finished his work, I asked him what he had learned.  He said, “Well, I learned you really love your Blackberry.”

Ouch.

It was tough feedback, but I needed to hear it.  Many of us never realize how our actions are perceived by the people around us.  In my case, I had thought I was being an incredibly effective Supermom – spending time with my son and keeping up at the office at the same time.  But to my son, my multitasking made it feel like work was more important than he was.  That kind of tough feedback can feel like a punch to the gut, but it’s also an opportunity to change.

Recently, I had a wonderful chance to talk about mindfulness in the workplace and how we give and receive feedback with Dr. Dan Gottlieb on “Voices in the Family” on WHYY-FM.  Dr. Gottlieb interviewed me and several experts on feedback and workplace psychology about how businesses can use feedback to create a better and more effective work environment.

I was proud to talk about the culture of mindfulness and feedback that we strive for at UnitedHealthcare.  As a healthcare company, we need to have a well-rounded perspective on health that we can only get by listening to feedback from our employees, members, medical experts and the community.  Here are a few of our strategies:
  • Positive feedback is just as important as constructive feedback.  Many people brush off compliments about their work, modestly saying, “It was nothing!” But at UnitedHealthcare, we teach our employees to say “thank you” when they receive kudos on their work because it helps them identify what is working.
  • Compassion and empathy play key roles in understanding how others perceive your words and actions.  We train our customer service representatives to be fully engaged when talking to members, and even encourage them to follow their instincts and write compassionate notes to people who are experiencing particularly challenging situations.  By examining a situation through someone else’s point of view, we can better understand how that person perceives our own behavior.
  • Difficult as it is in our hi-tech world, mindfulness is more critical than ever.   At UnitedHealthcare, the leader of our Center for Nursing Advancement is a certified expert on mindfulness and hosts monthly calls to which any employee can dial-in for a 20-minute mindful experience.
Most importantly, feedback doesn’t have to wait for a formal meeting or an annual performance review.  It only takes a minute to give someone a compliment or constructive comment about their work, but the rewards are long-lasting.

If you are an early riser, the full interview, “Mindfulness at work: How do you come across?” will be rebroadcast on Sunday at 6 a.m. on WHYY-FM, Philadelphia.  If not, you can hear the interview now on WHYY-FM here.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Study shows benefits of new cancer care payment model

As part of its commitment to help modernize the health care system, UnitedHealthcare is consistently looking for ways to develop new methods of care delivery and payment models.

The results from UnitedHealthcare’s newest study about changing the way we pay for cancer care demonstrates that a new payment system that rewards quality of care instead of quantity of care can lower costs by 34 percent while maintaining excellent patient care.

Cancer is among the most difficult diseases to treat, and the most costly.   Costs for cancer therapy, which were estimated by the National Cancer Institute at $124.6 billion in 2010, are projected to reach as high as $207 billion in 2020, suggesting there is an urgent need to rein in costs while finding the most effective treatments. 

Under the traditional “fee-for-service” payment model, oncologists are paid for each service they perform and drug they prescribe.  Instead of rewarding quality care, the fee-for-service model tends to reward volume of care and the use of more expensive drugs.

Under the new payment system, UnitedHealthcare paid oncologists upfront for an entire cancer treatment program, based on the expected cost of a standard treatment regimen for the specific condition as predetermined by the doctor.  The oncologists were paid the same fee regardless of the drugs administered to the patient – in effect, separating the oncologist’s income from drug sales while preserving the ability to maintain a regular visit schedule with the patient. Patient visits were reimbursed as usual using the fee-for-service contract rates, and chemotherapy medications were reimbursed based on the average sales price.

The study compared the cost and quality of care among 810 cancer patients at medical oncology centers across the country.  Researchers evaluated the treatment regimens based on more than 60 measures, including the number of emergency-room visits, incidence of complications, side effects and, most importantly, health outcomes to determine which treatment regimens do the best job of helping to fight cancer.

The new cancer care payment model resulted in a 34 percent reduction in overall medical costs but delivered the same outcomes in terms of overall patient health.  The results of the study show that higher cost care does not necessarily translate to higher quality care for the patient.

The details of the study were recently published in the report “Changing Physician Incentives for Affordable, Quality Cancer Care: Results of an Episode Payment Model” in the Journal of Oncology Practice.  For the full article, click here.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

UHC & Sickle Cell Disease Association launch new support program

A sharp, sudden pain awakens you from a deep sleep.  As you gather your senses you begin to realize the pain is in your leg.  It strikes again, and this time it takes your breath away—like a sharp serrated knife twisting slowly. Again and again, constant stabbing as you try to convince yourself that this is not happening, you experience another surge of pain, and then another. You call 911 and an ambulance comes to rush you to the hospital.  This scenario is one that Dr. Marjorie Dejoie, medical director of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America’s Philadelphia/Delaware Valley Chapter and a sickle cell patient described when we met to discuss how UnitedHealthcare might better support UnitedHealthcare members who live with this disease.

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a global health issue; the World Health Organization calls it a public health priority. SCD primarily affects African Americans, occurring in one out of every 500 African-American births. 

June 19th was World Sickle Cell Day, a day not only to raise awareness of SCD, but also to act as community to fight this truly awful disease. And Philadelphia did its part, as many Philadelphians participated in a blood drive at the Park West Town Center. SCD patients often need blood transfusions, so the blood drive was a big help to local efforts to fight the disease. The event was hosted by the Philadelphia/Delaware chapter of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA), which also provided free blood pressure screenings, “True Age” assessments and free passes to local gyms were also available.

The blood drive was part of UnitedHealthcare and the SCDAA Philadelphia/Delaware Valley chapter’s much larger effort to create a care management program for people with SCD living in Southeast and Northeast Philadelphia and enrolled in UnitedHealthcare Medicaid plans.

The Sickle Cell Disease Care Management Program – the first of its kind in Pennsylvania – aims to improve patient health, eliminate gaps in care and reduce the need for emergency care for patients with SCD. 

UnitedHealthcare specialized care management team members will work with patients one-on-one to discuss the patients’ psychosocial needs, help them follow the prescribed treatment and connect them with appropriate care resources.  The team will also help to educate patients about SCD and work to eliminate any gaps in care.

SCD is a genetic disorder that causes long strands of hemoglobin to form within some red blood cells, forcing the cell into a sickle shape.  Besides having to live with sometimes excruciating pain, persons with sickle cell disease are much more prone to contract severe, sometimes life-threatening, infections. 

Our SCD Care Management Program will focus on patients prescribed the only available disease-modifying treatment for SCD, a drug called hydroxyurea.  Hydroxyurea works by increasing the levels of fetal hemoglobin in red blood cells, which promotes the production of healthy red blood cells and decreases the likelihood of sickle cell disease complications.

The result of our Sickle Cell Disease Care Management Program will be healthier SCD patients, fewer hospitalizations and lower overall health care costs for the community.

Team members from the SCDAA helped out at the Blood Drive on June 19th to celebrate World Sickle Cell Day in Philly!