Regence caregivers at the heart of member support for COVID-19 cases
In honor of National Nurses Week, Regence’s Jamie Halstead shares how her team addresses and adapts to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis
Main photo: Jamie Halstead, left, with a team of masked Regence care managers prior to COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing
In January, when Jamie Halstead heard that the first COVID-19 case in the United States was confirmed in Washington state, she sensed it was going to be big. She quickly identified the data needed to spot members who might be affected and thought about the kind of support they would need. Then she asked two nurses to learn all they could about the disease so they could be ready to help members if they became ill.
Her sense of impact was right. But it was even bigger than she could have predicted.
“We were able to get by with two nurses for about two weeks,” said Halstead, who leads Regence’s clinical programs and care management team. “Once claims started pouring in, we realized we’d need a different approach.”
Rounding out member support team
Besides supporting COVID-19 patients, the Regence care management team also helps members with chronic and acute conditions. With the combination of physical distancing and temporary business closures, some parts of the company temporarily have lighter workloads. So, Halstead targeted those areas, recruiting 15 nurses, 10 care advocates, and 15 customer service professionals to round out her COVID-19 member support team.
Currently, about 100 Regence staff are engaged in contacting an average of 250 people daily, actively monitoring more than 400 cases as of April 30. They’ve contacted about 2,000 members to date.
Calls well received
“Health care is about much more than treating symptoms with medications and procedures,” said Julie Lindberg, vice president of clinical services. “It includes compassion, empathy, education, advocacy and listening. These are the ‘treatments’ our care management team provides to our members.”
The team’s outreach varies based on claims and real-time admission and emergency room data, and each case is triaged. Nurses are assigned to the more severe cases – typically inpatient – and customer support specialists call those with mild symptoms.
“We’re getting positive responses,” Halstead said. “People who are really sick are thankful we have nurses to support them and their families. Members who have mild symptoms—which is most—often need help with resources, from accessing telehealth to identifying community support for financial needs.”
One recent call to a member who received a COVID-19 test took an unexpected turn when the member thanked us for calling them years ago. “I have been recovery for the last few years,” the member said. “If it wasn’t for Regence, I wouldn’t have gotten the treatment I needed and wouldn’t be where I am today. This outreach does change lives. Thank you so much for reaching out today.”
“That one really touched us,” Halstead said.
The path forward
“Looking ahead, agility will be key,” Halstead said. “We have a robust foundation and we can manage acute volumes. As community cases ebb and flow, we’re working on how to handle that long term, but we know we have to have a plan to ensure our members are supported. We will likely focus entirely on people who have been admitted to hospitals, but it’s too early to tell for certain.”
One thing is certain. Regence nurses, care advocates and customer service professionals will be there, on the front lines, providing compassionate care to our members and their families and living out the health plan’s cause.