Monday, August 26, 2013

Simplify your life by simplifying your health care management

Whenever I hear about something designed to make my life easier and usually, by default, much more enjoyable, I’m all for it!  Online banking, mobile apps and using a straw to remove the stems from strawberries, are a few of my favorites.  So when I heard that UnitedHealthcare launched a new online service that lets consumers pay their medical bills online, I knew what my next blog topic would be.

This completely free, secure, online electronic bill-payment service allows more than 21 million UnitedHealthcare participants nationwide to pay their medical bills online with a credit card, debit card, health savings account or bank account via the InstaMed payments network while managing their health care claims and related health care expenses on the plan participant portal

By enabling consumers to more easily monitor, manage and understand their health care expenses, people can make more informed decisions regarding their care. In fact, we have already seen many consumers catch medical billing errors by using the enhanced service. This new feature adds convenience for consumers to pay their medical bills more easily, while also helping health care providers to get paid faster and easier.

But this new service is not only blog worthy because it can make your life easier, it’s important because consumers continue to pay a larger percentage of their medical bills, according to a recent report from the American Medical Association. And in addition, a third of physician practices still do not accept credit cards, according to a recent report from SK&A Information Services.   

Designed in collaboration with InstaMed, the leading health care payments network company, the online service is available UnitedHealthcare’s entire network of physicians and other health care providers who register and receive online payments through InstaMed.  Here in Pennsylvania, that’s over 33,000 physicians and health care professionals.

So check it out at  You’ll see that this latest innovation adds convenience and simplicity to your life.  Something I think we’re all in favor of.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A more diverse health care workforce will help us improve care for minorities

Trust and understanding between health care professionals and their patients is absolutely critical to ensuring that the patient gets the most appropriate and effective care.

But for patients of diverse backgrounds, differences in language, culture and ethnicity can be barriers between them and the health professionals who care for them.  Research by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that when patients are treated by health professionals who share their language, culture and ethnicity, they are more likely to accept and adopt the medical treatment they receive.

The problem is that the number of health professionals from multicultural backgrounds is disproportionately low compared to the overall population, according to the American Medical
Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges. For example, while about 15 percent of the U.S. population is Hispanic/Latino, only 5 percent of physicians and 4 percent of registered nurses are Hispanic/Latino. About 12 percent of the population is African American, yet only 6 percent of physicians and 5 percent of registered nurses are African American.

To foster a more diverse health care workforce, United Health Foundation’s Diverse Scholars Initiative awarded $1.2 million in scholarships in the 2012-2013 school year to 200 students from diverse backgrounds. 

Here in Pennsylvania, I’m proud to say that we had two outstanding students win scholarships. 

Shelah McMillan
Philadelphia resident Shelah McMillan is a senior at Thomas Jefferson University School of Nursing and intends to become a nurse practitioner.  Shelah had worked as an accountant for a decade before deciding to devote her career to health care. Her goal is to serve as an educator and advocate for healthier lifestyles, bridging the gap between the medical jargon of physicians and patients from underserved communities.

Vivienne Meljen
Vivienne Meljen of Scranton, PA is a 2013 Truman Scholar beginning her first year of medical school at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, pursuing both a Doctor of Medicine and a Master of Public Health degree and specializing in internal medicine and rural health. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Scranton with a minor in modern Spanish.  Vivienne currently serves as a volunteer and Spanish translator at the Leahy clinic, a free clinic for the uninsured in Scranton.  She intends to begin her career as a rural internal medicine physician in an underserved rural region of the U.S.

In addition to receiving financial awards, Shelah and Vivienne attended the fifth annual Diverse Scholars Forum, which brought more than 60 scholarship recipients to Washington, D.C., July 24-26 to celebrate the scholars and inspire them to work toward strengthening the nation’s health care system. The event gave Vivienne, Shelah and other future health care professionals, the opportunity to meet and interact with members of Congress and leaders from a variety of health care fields.

Congratulations, Shelah and Vivienne!  I wish you all the best as you help our health system better serve all members of the community.

United Health Foundation’s diverse scholar recipients making connections
with other healthcare students and professionals at the
Diverse Scholars Forum held in Washington, DC. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

It’s time to recognize the excellent health care delivered at federally qualified health centers

When we talk about high-quality health care, many people immediately think of world-class health centers, like Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia or Johns Hopkins Hospital.

But in our admiration for these cutting-edge medical centers, we shouldn’t forget about the excellent health care that is given in our communities every day at federally qualified health centers (FQHCs).  Since August 11-17 is National Health Center Week it’s a good time to give top-performing FQHCs the recognition they deserve. 

FQHCs are community-based health centers that provide primary care and preventive health care to economically or medically disadvantaged populations.  Health care professionals at FQHCs are specially trained to address the often complex needs of people living with chronic conditions and those with high-risk medical, behavioral or social challenges.

Despite the challenging circumstances facing many FQHCs, many of them go above and beyond to ensure that patients receive high quality, cost-efficient care.  UnitedHealthcare recognizes those health centers that ensure that care is accessible to the entire community and demonstrate excellence in providing high-quality, effective care in its Gold Star program.

This week, the United Health Foundation, a private, not-for-profit foundation, will recognize the superior clinical care and patient support that Gold Star FQHCs provide to our most vulnerable Americans.  In addition to recognition, the foundation will award grants to high-performing FQHCs across the nation, with more than 50 grants going to Pennsylvania health centers. In total, the foundation has committed nearly $40 million to community health centers since 2003. 

Here in Philadelphia, we have several FQHCs that demonstrate excellence in health care.  Among the many statewide FQHCs that we will recognize,  the city health centers operated by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, a group of eight Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) is one that I want to shout out here for their commitment to providing access to quality health care for economically and medically disadvantaged Philadelphia area residents. 

I have deep respect for the work Federally Qualified Health Centers are doing to address the most pressing health concerns facing our communities, and I’m proud to support their efforts.  Keep up the good work!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Grateful for the chance to give back

Around Thanksgiving last year, many of you may remember that I talked about my team’s “Gratitude Challenge”

Even now in August, I’ve still been trying to keep up with the challenge.  This week, I found a lot to be grateful for, especially as I learned that Modern Healthcare magazine has chosen me as a finalist for its national Community Leadership Award.

I was excited and humbled to hear about the award, and it made me reflect on how grateful I am for the time I have been able to spend working on community projects.  It is truly been a privilege to work with the wonderful people who are dedicated to making our world a better place.

It also made me very grateful that the culture of volunteerism at UnitedHealthcare encourages community work, because I am not alone.  Many members of my team also devote their time to community projects, just as our fellow employees are doing nationwide.  In fact, 81% of our employees and 96% of our executives reported volunteering in 2012. 

And it helps to have the support of your employer.  Many of our employees find volunteer opportunities by working on UnitedHealthcare’s community initiatives, such as events related to our HEROES program, like the Moon Walk Challenge event at the Allegheny Valley YMCA or throwing a puppy shower for a kid in the Make-A-Wish program.

As I’ve gotten involved with my own volunteer projects, UnitedHealthcare has been supporting me every step of the way.  One project dear to my heart has been the annual UnitedHealthcare Dash to Make a Difference with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.  I had been interested in doing an event to help young kids get involved in the fight against breast cancer ever since I had two friends, both with young children, call me in the same week to tell me they had breast cancer.  When I joined the board of directors at Komen, UnitedHealthcare was happy to support my idea for the Dash to Make a Difference.

UnitedHealthcare and my coworkers were also very supportive when I spoke about healthy pregnancies at the March of Dimes 75th Anniversary celebration earlier this year,  and when JDRF honored me at the annual Promise Ball in April to raise money for type 1 diabetes research.

So I’m feeling very grateful lately – grateful to have the opportunity to work with the wonderful people at  Susan G. Komen, March of Dimes, JDRF and others, grateful to work for a company that supports community involvement, and grateful to be honored as a finalist for the Community Leadership Award.

The public will have a chance to vote for the winner for the award.  Voting has already begun and will last until September 20th.  If any of you would be so kind as to take a moment and send a vote my way by clicking here, I’d be – you guessed it – grateful!