By Kristy Hemenway, Care Community Senior Manager, Ontrak Health.
Health plans know vulnerable populations need hands-on care and support. Even members who routinely visit their primary care physician (PCP) need help navigating healthcare between visits—and sticking to treatment plans.
But it’s not easy to deliver. Limited resources and personnel can impede health plans from achieving their goals.
That’s why more health plans are turning to member Engagement solutions like we provide at Ontrak Health.
By bringing a whole-person approach to behavioral health, our Care Coaches can support both mid- and high-acuity members. Usually those with annual claims between $1,000 and $7,500.
In fact, many mid-acuity behavioral health needs can be addressed without specialist intervention. How? Because along with behavioral health, Care Coaches can help address physical health and social needs too. This holistic focus empowers members to make lifestyle changes and drastically improve their overall wellbeing. All while only working with Care Coaches and PCPs.
The best part? When members engage with Care Coaches early it can help mitigate avoidable utilization down the road—like emergency room visits.
Here are five ways Ontrak Care Coaches help make it happen.
#1 Motivational interviewing
From the very first member interaction, Care Coaches employ motivational interviewing to conduct a detailed member assessment. Going beyond a basic checklist, Care Coaches aim to build real (and meaningful) relationships with members.
Motivational interviewing helps achieve this through, among other things, open-ended questions and communication techniques that prompt genuine self-reflection—and invite members to explore the root causes of their challenges.
Care Coaches seek to uncover social needs, resource constraints, gaps in care, and potential patterns of care avoidance. They’ll also screen for anxiety and depression. Finally, they’ll ask probing questions to reveal care preferences that may shape a member’s experience in the program.
#2 Member-led goal setting
The secret sauce of Ontrak Care Coaching rests in our unique ability to help members discover their own sense of autonomy and direction. To that end, our detailed assessments and conversations empower members to articulate goals for themselves.
We never tell members what to do. We never unilaterally offer a care plan.
Why? Because our experience shows time and again that you can’t affect behavioral change unless members assume the initiative. Internal motivation means everything. Members need to believe in their own goals—and themselves. But they’ll never get there unless they interpret the process as self-led and self-initiated.
Ultimately our goal is to empower members to take a much bigger role in their own healthcare and selfcare.
#3 Provider collaboration
With member consent, we collaborate with providers, such as PCPs, therapists, and psychiatrists. We’re in continuous contact with providers and exchange information, which can include care notes. Care Coaches follow up after every provider visit.
In this model, providers are truly an extension of Ontrak Health. And it’s one of the biggest reasons more than 7,900+ behavioral health providers choose to join our network.
Above all, this approach is integral to our mission, giving Care Coaches critical insights to personalize care plans—and help members stick to provider treatment plans.
#4 Never say can’t
Ontrak Care Coaches may meet with members on a bi-weekly basis—up to 52 weeks, depending on the program. During that time, we’ll do whatever it takes to help members achieve their goals.
Often, this means going well beyond the formal scope of the role.
We know members have a lot of social needs that sometimes create barriers to care. From food or housing insecurity to financial or transportation challenges, our mission is to help members overcome those barriers.
We often connect members with both national and local resources. This may include food banks, financial support centers, health plan resources, copay assistance, local churches, nonprofits, and more.
On paper, we’re Care Coaches. In practice, we’re dot connectors. And that means doing anything and everything to help members realize better health and wellbeing.
#5 Professional autonomy
One thing should be clear: We don’t take an overly rigid or formulaic approach to Care Coaching. Of course, we do have guiding principles (e.g., motivational interviewing and member-led goal setting).
But what really sets Ontrak apart is the professional discretion we afford our Care Coaches.
To that end, training and preparation make a difference. We partnered with Violet to train for cultural competency: Working with both LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC leaders, we equip our Care Coaches to be culturally sensitive—and responsive.
In addition, we partnered with PsychHub to help Care Coaches stay alert to mental health conditions and diagnoses. This is especially important when working with members living with symptoms associated with significant mental illness.
Finally, most of our Care Coaches are certified health coaches. This is a professional certification that requires 40+ hours of practice, training, and ongoing education to stay current.
At Ontrak Health, members are not just an ID number. We build deep, professional relationships with every single member who joins our program. And that requires giving our Care Coaches the autonomy and flexibility to be more emotionally involved.
While others in this space might operate a call center—we operate a care center.