Friday, December 19, 2014

2015: The Promise of Person-Centered Planning

Gerianne Prom
VP, Long Term Care Services

Throughout 2014, we saw increasing attention to the person-centered planning and self-direction requirements of the Affordable Care Act.  HCBS programs received guidance documents from a number of sources.  For many programs, these documents validated and further inspired the person-centered approaches already at the heart of their programs.  For others, they served as a wake-up call to let go of former practices and evolve their thinking and methodology.

As we enter 2015, we have an opportunity within our organizations and communities to build on the promise of person-centered approaches.  To make it possible for persons with disabilities to make real their meaningful life in their community.  To foster the realization of human potential.

The beginning of the year is an excellent time to recommit as professionals, as organizations, and as leaders to examine and evolve our best practices.  Some of the questions I’m asking to prepare for the year ahead are:
  • What can we do to further the culture of partnership, respect, and trust we build with the people we serve and the people important to them?
  • Are our practices empowering person-driven plans?
  • What are the staff development needs?
  • What are the mentoring and coaching opportunities?
  • What can we do to further community building and engagement?
  • What can we do to eliminate disparities?

The new year is a time for fresh inspiration and renewed commitment.  What are you looking forward to?  

Connect with me via email and through LinkedIn. Follow iLIFE on Twitter for the latest updates on healthcare news.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Listen Up

Amanda Cavanagh
Director, Research and Business Development

I was asked once what the most important thing a salesperson must do to be successful.  My answer caught them off guard.

It is not to blueprint the need.  It is not to identify the technical buyer.  It is not even negotiating the best price.

The most important skill is the ability to listen.

As a business development and sales strategist, I listen to our customers and incorporate their thoughts into the design, development, and implementation of long-term care programs.  I talk with prospects, email customers, engage with thought leaders at conferences, and collaborate with internal teams. 

We also listen to our consumers.  This means more than just customer service and community outreach.  Every time sheet iLIFE processes is a window into a person’s life.  They show us their successes and struggles, the care they’re getting, and the additional services they need.  Time sheets can also tell us what’s working and what isn’t.

But that’s only part of the process.  States, federal agencies, advocacy leaders, and Medicaid program managers need to listen to these stories.  Self-directed programs have a commitment to help consumers get the care they need.  They tell us what we need to know to deliver quality services that provide solutions to their needs.

During my career, I have learned that, in many regards, we all speak a different language.  However, we all listen for the same reason.  We want to be understood.

Take the time to listen to all the people you serve.  No matter your role in long-term care delivery, listening will help you better understand the programs and people you serve.

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Participant Liaisons in Long-Term Care Programs

Julie Peterson
Participant Liaison

I come from a caregiving background. In 2010, I began working for two participants in IRIS, the state of Wisconsin’s self-directed long-term care program. During that time, I saw the positive impact IRIS has on their lives. I could see how the program could be improved, too. To bring about these improvements, I joined the iLIFE staff as a participant liaison.

What is a participant liaison? What does a participant liaison do?

Participant liaisons are responsible for serving consumers in the IRIS program. Liaisons work in specific service areas, which for me is northwest Wisconsin.

From my office in Rice Lake, I am available to participants in my region, along with their caregivers, consultants and vendors. They call or email me, and I work with them to get the help and information they need to navigate the IRIS program.

Working in a regional office allows me to see things from the viewpoint of our clients. I meet consumers face-to-face, understand their issues, and develop personal relationships. It is an effective way to improve customer service and educate consumers on self-direction.

When someone contacts me for help, I work as quickly as I can to resolve the issue. I also take note of other things that may need attention. This includes:
  • verifying participant and caregiver contact information
  • updating participant caregiver lists
  • answering budget questions
  • educating consumers about program guidelines

I truly consider it a privilege to serve IRIS consumers as a participant liaison. It is a rewarding role that helps consumers, and makes a great self-directed program even better.

Learn more about iLIFE
Read about the Wisconsin IRIS program

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tips For Creating Strong Provider/Consumer Relationships

Matt Queen
Communications Manager

Looking back, we needed to get out of the office.

Too often, customer interaction began with a phone call from our consumers. We would answer their questions and resolve their issues. And then the call would end. We crossed our fingers and hoped we made a positive connection.

The realization was clear. We needed to create real relationships with the people we serve.

In 2012, we started hosting outreach events throughout Wisconsin. These events bring consumers and our staff together. We talk and get to know each other. We listen to consumers’ issues, understand their situations, and learn how we can better support them.

Our outreach events not only put a face with the iLIFE name, but also provide helpful resources to consumers navigating their way through long-term care programs. During the events, we educate consumers on topics such as budget authority, employer authority and self-direction.

The success of these events has led to the development of these outreach initiatives:
  • Resource guides to help participants in long-term care programs
  • Full-time staff members designated to specific service areas
  • Consumer surveys to let us know what can be improved
Strong relationships between service providers and consumers are vital to effective financial management services.  Having a successful outreach plan involves, educates, and connects consumers to your organization.

Check out our outreach events on the iLIFE Facebook page.
Follow iLIFE on LinkedIn.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Customer Service: Helping Consumers and Driving Change

Amanda Cavanagh
Director, Research and Business Development

Customer service.  What does that term mean to you?  How do providers establish best practices for customer service?

Customer service falls in to two basic categories: good or bad.  Let’s be honest.  A poor review is much more interesting to read than a good one.  If misery loves company, then maybe the sour taste from our last bad customer service experience helps us relate to others in the same boat.

For our disability rights community, accessibility to customer service can be challenging.  Is the “Contact Us” page on your website visually accessible?  Is the 800-phone number and supporting call center audibly accessible?  Is your customer service location accessible?  It would be easy to chalk up these challenges as poor customer service.  Instead, we need to look beyond the challenges and see the opportunity to serve our customers.   

As financial management services (FMS) providers, we serve two distinct customer groups.  First, and foremost, program participants are our primary focus.  We manage payroll, taxes, human resource and administrative functions for our participants.   By removing barriers, we enable participants to succeed through dynamic, accessible, and individualized living opportunities.
Through our fiscal services, iLIFE helps people reach their goals and live independently.

In addition to serving people enrolled in long-term care programs, iLIFE also serves programs themselves.  We collaborate with state, federal, and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) leaders.  We have the responsibility to spark ability rights discussions, inform policies, and work with these leaders to serve our communities every day.

In that spirit, exemplary customer service must help people in the moment and contribute to larger causes and changes.  While poor customer service does not make customers happy, it is an opportunity to improve things for the future.  The feelings of a job well done, the positive impact we have on our community, and the life changing lessons we learn from our customers should drive this commitment to delivering quality customer service.

Poor reviews might make for interesting reads.  However, good reviews tell the greatest stories.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Changes at the VA: What We Can Learn and How We Can Improve

Gerianne Prom
VP, Long Term Care Services

On Veterans Day, social media was full with messages of genuine support, respect, and affection for veterans, current members of the military, and their families.

On the eve of Veterans Day, there was big news from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, as they announced major reforms addressing inadequacies in veteran supports and services.

VA Secretary Bob McDonald announced the creation of a Chief Customer Service Officer, who will simplify internal coordination, enhance customer service, and allow veterans to navigate VA without having to understand the inner workings of the department.

The VA also unveiled an intranet web tool called MyVA Idea House, designed for VA employees to log on and provide feedback in a secure manner.

I think both of these reforms will not only help VA services, but similar policies can also benefit other human service and long-term care programs across the country.

Many people we serve navigate their way through a variety of government and private programs to determine eligibility, as well as access and coordinate ongoing services and supports.  Creating a role similar to the VA’s Chief Customer Service Officer can help guide participants towards the services and supports they need.

It is also good wise to encourage employee feedback through internal websites.  Direct service professionals see things within programs or organizations that need to be changed.  However, they may not feel empowered to discuss problems or suggest improvements.  Continuous feedback from consumers and all layers of an organization will yield optimal opportunities for improvement.

Organizations serving people with disabilities should review these reforms and consider adopting similar simplifying initiatives.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Changing Landscape of Long-Term Care

Richard Zalewski
iLIFE Program Consultant

My, oh my.  How things have changed.

Thinking back to when our organization took its first steps into the financial management field, the landscape looked very different.  It was 1988.  While more options for services and resources were becoming available to people with disabilities, the practice of people self-directing their services was not widely implemented.

From the 1960s through the ‘80s, self-directed service models sprung out of the independent living movement.  These programs only served small pockets of our country, but they fostered larger principles that would eventually influence future policies and programs.

Now, federal regulations and requirements are driving the transformation of long-term care.  Of course, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Olmstead decision have been huge.  However, additional financial incentives for states to decrease institutional spending are expanding community based service options.  In 2012, nearly half of the $136 billion Medicaid spent on long-term care went to home and community based services.

Wisconsin’s participant-directed supports program, IRIS, is an increasingly popular option for people wanting to exercise self-direction.  iLIFE is the fiscal employer agent for IRIS, which currently serves over 11,000 participants.  Additionally, veteran-directed service programs (VD-HCBS) have expanded across the United States.  iLIFE provides financial management services to VD-HCBS participants in Wisconsin, Illinois, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

As more long-term care programs become available and self-directed options expand, financial management service providers are in a unique position to help people and their families better live and work in their community.

Over the past quarter century, there has been a great deal of change.  I hope this commitment stays the same.

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