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.”


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.


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! 

Friday, April 18, 2014

One hockey game fulfills a life-long wish

For kids with serious diseases and their families, life often seems to revolve around hospital stays, medications, doctor visits, treatments and pain.  The challenges, restrictions and emotional toll of daily life with serious disease often pushes many of the joyful things in life off to the side, from playing basketball with friends after school to family vacations.

The nonprofit organization Make-A-Wish works hard to help sick kids and their families forget about the disease for a little while to experience their dreams. The compassion that Make-A-Wish shows for these children and their families led UnitedHealthcare to partner with Make-A-Wish back in 2007.  Since then, we’ve helped make the wishes come true of more than 600 children.  In addition to funding wishes, our employees regularly volunteer their time to help make the wishes happen.

Recently, we had the chance to help fulfill the wish of a young teen in the Pittsburgh area suffering from a rare type of bladder cancer. Riley’s wish was to attend a hockey game in which the Pittsburgh Penguins played the Philadelphia Flyers. 

UnitedHealthcare planned a party for Riley on Friday, April 11 to celebrate both his wish fulfillment and his 14th birthday.  Riley, his family and two best friends were picked up by a limo and whisked off to our offices in Forest Hills near Pittsburgh where 80 UnitedHealthcare workers were waiting to yell, “Surprise!”  Riley received an authentic Pens jersey with the name of his favorite player on the back, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, a DVD of his favorite show, Duck Dynasty, and other gifts while we all enjoyed ice cream cake.

On Saturday, Riley and his friends and family attended the Penguins vs. Flyers game, and enjoyed dinner and an overnight stay in downtown Pittsburgh.

At UnitedHealthcare, we know that access to high-quality medical care is the number one priority for kids like Riley, and we work hard every day to help people get the care they need.  But our mission to help people live healthier lives extends beyond access to quality, affordable healthcare.  We believe that a few smiles along the way can help kids like Riley find the emotional strength they need along their journey.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kids help create joke book to raise funds for children with health needs

Why did the clown go to the doctor? 

He was feeling kinda funny.

This is no April Fool’s joke — kids are helping kids feel better.

With the help of kids from around the nation, the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF) collected more than 600 popular and original jokes, funny one-liners, knock-knock jokes and silly tongue-twisters for a new joke book designed to be an uplifting, boredom-busting page turner that would inspire any reader, whether in a hospital, doctor’s waiting room or long car ride.

The "Little Book – Big Laughs Joke Book,” will be available April 1 at for $5.99 and in addition to creating smiles, proceeds from the book will be used to help fund child medical grants for local families in need. 

Since 1999, the Foundation has funded more than 6,500 child medical grants totaling more than $20 million. Last year, six grants were awarded to families in Pennsylvania while more than 1,700 grants, worth more than $5.6 million, were awarded nationwide for treatments associated with medical conditions such as cancer, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, diabetes, hearing loss, autism, cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, ADHD and cerebral palsy.  Unfortunately, many families in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. are unaware of this great resource which is another reason why the Foundation came up with the idea for the book.  Our goal this year is to award 2,100 grants nationwide and the proceeds from the sale of this book can help us reach our goal.

To be eligible for a grant, children must be 16 years of age or younger. Families must meet economic guidelines, reside in the United States and have a commercial health insurance plan (does not have to be with UnitedHealthcare). Grants are available for medical expenses families have incurred 60 days prior to the date of application as well as for ongoing and future medical needs. Parents or legal guardians may apply for grants at Applications are accepted throughout the year, with no deadline to apply.

 The UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity which is governed by an independent National Board of Directors. It is not a division or department of UnitedHealthcare or UnitedHealth Group, but enjoys their strong support.

UnitedHealthcare wants to help as many families as possible.  Families with multiple qualifying children can apply for multiple grants.  The limit for each child is $5,000 within a 12-month period and $10,000 within the child’s lifetime.  Applications take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.  The length of the review process varies, but usually takes between one and three months.  UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation is now accepting applications at

Knock, knock…who’s there? 
I am. 
I am who?
You don’t know who you are?

Laughter truly is the best medicine!


Monday, March 17, 2014

Pay it forward

Many of my readers may be familiar with the concept of “paying it forward,” a term popularized by Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book Pay It Forward.  The idea is to do something to help someone, and instead of them paying back the favor, they pay it forward by helping someone else in need.

The action might be small, such as paying for a tank of gas for someone at the gas station who may need it, or it may be large, such as helping someone buy a plane ticket to get home to their family.  The point is that people will help others as they have been helped, thereby starting a chain of good will.

The concept has been on my mind often lately in light of a recent award I received and the good will that I myself was the recipient of as a student at Randolph Macon College.

On March 14, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce honored me with their 2014 Paradigm Award.  Now in its 22nd year, the annual award honors a local business woman whose leadership and dedication to family, career and the community makes her a strong role model for others. 

While the award is certainly a flattering accolade, the award focuses on the importance of being a strong role model for others, serving to help, support and inspire them just as other people have done for me along the way.  In other words, I need to pay it forward!

At UnitedHealthcare, paying it forward is a part of our culture.  Last year, in Pennsylvania we gave more than $350,000 to organizations such as Bridge Educational Foundation, the YMCA, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, March of Dimes, Team Pennsylvania and others that help build stronger, healthier communities.  Our Pennsylvania employees donated more than 2,000 volunteer hours to help nonprofit organizations.  And as part of our employee giving campaign, pledged more than $325,000, which UnitedHealthcare matched dollar for dollar.

So it’s time for me to pay it forward, too.  I’ve designated the $25,000 charitable gift that accompanies the Paradigm Award to support Leadership Philadelphia, a nonprofit organization which helps connect businesses and professionals with opportunities to serve the community.  Leadership Philadelphia is using a portion of the donation for its “Pay It Forward” campaign and is giving a random group of people who attended the Paradigm Awards luncheon a small amount of cash to complete acts of service and compassion for someone in need without the expectation of personal reward.

As they use the cash to selflessly help others, they are encouraged to share their experiences with Leadership Philadelphia.  I can’t wait to hear their stories, and I hope they will inspire my readers just as they inspire me.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Healthy babies are worth the wait

As part of the 75th anniversary celebration of the March of Dimes, UnitedHealthcare is a proud partner of the campaign to educate the public about the importance of the last few weeks of pregnancy titled, “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait.”  While some women may need to have their babies early for medical reasons, physicians and families schedule far too many births before the full gestation period of 40 weeks for non-medical reasons. 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) classifies a baby as “full term” at 37 weeks, but advises against elective deliveries before 39 weeks.  A UnitedHealthcare study, which surveyed 650 insured, first-time mothers from various geographic, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, found that more than 90% of respondents thought that it was safe to deliver a baby before 39 weeks.

But those last weeks of pregnancy count.  In the last few weeks, babies are still developing important body functions, and babies born before 39 weeks are at increased risk of complications such as respiratory distress, jaundice, infection, low blood sugar, extra days in the hospital and even death.

The March of Dimes wants babies to get at least 39 weeks of gestation. For pregnant women, the March of Dimes offers information on why it is important for labor to begin on its own and not to schedule delivery by convenience.  It also encourages health care professionals to participate in quality improvement initiatives aimed at eliminating early elective deliveries.

“Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” is an important component of the March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign, a nationwide effort to address the growing problem of premature birth, the leading cause of newborn death and a major cause of serious health problems. Premature births cost society billions of dollars every year. 

As an expansion of the “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait Campaign, the March of Dimes has created the “CineMama” iPhone app.  Women can create a time-lapse video of their pregnancy – and get health tips along the way – through this free interactive app.    Time-lapse pregnancy slideshows and videos are a trend among expectant parents as a way of creating a digital keepsake of their pregnancy to share with loved ones. 

“CineMama” allows expecting moms to take and upload their photos to the web, easily turn the still pictures into video, and share it all through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.  “CineMama” will prompt women to record the ups and downs of their pregnancy, as well as important milestones in a diary that can be easily shared.

You can find more information at weeks here or by calling 610-945-6050. You should also check with your insurance company. UnitedHealthcare has a Healthy Pregnancy program that connects our members who are expectant mothers with the care and education they need. The program is at no additional cost to the member and provides 24-hour* toll-free access to experienced maternity nurses and other resources.