Tennessee case managers help connect members to resources, vaccinations

Nurse case manager and clinical coordinator Mary Newton is part of a dedicated team at UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Tennessee, who helps both Medicaid and Dual Special Needs Plan members shortly before or right after they are discharged from the hospital. The team helps members with chronic conditions find needed resources, schedule visits with their health care providers, understand their medications and coordinate home health care, if needed.

“Our biggest goal is to help members manage their chronic conditions,” Mary said. “The majority of them are on a fixed income, and we know if they can’t afford food, they’re definitely not going to be able to afford their medications or other necessities.”

Mary is part of a Whole Person Care team, that includes behavioral health and community health workers, who assess members for social determinants of health, and connects them with the support they need.

“We really, truly are here to help these members live healthier and better every day,” Mary said.

A big part of healthy living these days includes getting vaccinated against COVID-19 — especially for those with chronic conditions or a higher risk of complications from the virus. The UnitedHealthcare team is on a mission to help educate members about vaccine options, let them know about upcoming vaccination events and schedule vaccine appointments, if a member expresses interest. Additionally, lack of transportation doesn’t have to be a barrier as Mary and the team will even help schedule a ride to and from a vaccine or other medical appointment.

Their efforts are paying off, too. As of July, more than 420 members have been vaccinated with their assistance. And at the Juneteenth Health and Wellness Fair held in Nashville this summer, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan partnered with Meharry Medical Group to encourage vaccinations. The UnitedHealthcare team called hundreds of members inviting them to attend, which helped account for dozens of vaccinations at the event.

When broaching the subject of COVID-19 vaccinations, Mary said establishing trust and building a good rapport with members are key, especially among those who are undecided about getting vaccinated. The UnitedHealthcare team is supportive, listens to member concerns and answers any questions they have.

After members who choose to get vaccinated complete their appointments, case managers reconnect with them to see how they are feeling and if they have any follow-up questions. Mary reported the majority of members she worked with did not experience any serious side effects and are happy to have the additional protection the vaccine provides.

As for why Mary chose to be vaccinated, she explained: “I think it’s important to not only protect myself but to protect people I love. There are a lot of people in my life, family and friends, who are immunocompromised or elderly. I don’t want to be the reason why they have to go into the hospital and never come back home.”