#Ready4OE2: Empowering Assisters With Virtual Tools to Reach Rural Communities

By Guest Blogger

As we count down to the start of the second open enrollment period (OE2) on November 15, Enroll America’s #Ready4OE2 blog series will feature a new entry every weekday in October sharing lessons learned from OE1 and strategies for OE2. For more tips and tools, check out the #Ready4OE2 webinar series!

This post was written by Katherine Gunby, Program Coordinator, Lower Shore Health Insurance Assistance Program.

Strategy for OE2: Deploying mobile navigators and assisters to reach rural communities, and empowering them with tools that help them efficiently schedule appointments and track data.

When and where it was used: The Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland (the highly rural area of the state) throughout OE1.

Notable metrics from OE1:

According to data released by the state exchange, our Lower Shore region enrolled 5,486 people into Medicaid (excluding the Primary Adult Care rollovers) and 2,050 people into qualified health plans (QHPs). These numbers far surpassed the original target for the region of approximately 5,300 total new enrollees. Our local staff personally assisted more than 2,200 households with enrollment.

Our virtual contact center allowed us to track more than 4,009 calls from 2,154 unique callers during open enrollment.

We held 127 outreach booth events, 72 presentations, and 19 library information sessions during OE1.

How it worked:

Reaching consumers efficiently in rural areas can involve unique challenges, but we had tools in our corner that helped us connect consumers to their closest source of in-person application assistance.

We used our grant funds to pay for a relatively inexpensive call center and call distribution service, Ifbyphone, that helped consumers schedule appointments to get in-person help to get covered. Consumers could call a local hotline, and the service would then connect them to a nearby Navigator or assister’s cell phone.

Additionally, we connected the hotline service to a free, open-source customer relationship management (CRM) software called SugarCRM. Having access to shared information through the CRM also helped assisters provide quick, warm handoffs to agencies or staff closest to the consumer, which was especially critical for rural regions.

Navigators and assisters could also use the system to monitor, in real-time, information on call topics, demographics of clients, and more, giving us the flexibility to quickly adjust call scripts and processes to meet the needs of the community. We also used real-time metrics to assess our strategies and quantify our reach.

For OE2, we intend to upgrade the software to a paid version to have access to improved reporting capabilities that will allow us to better understand our demographics and evaluate the results of our outreach strategies.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the approach we took to provide virtual resources to navigators and assisters, please email the program coordinator, Katherine.gunby [at] maryland.gov.

Best practice to replicate for OE2:

  • Use digital tools and data-driven processes to connect rural consumers to their closest source of application assistance as efficiently as possible.
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