Helping people is nothing new to Summer Alonso, RN, or Susan Zilinskas, RN, BSN.
After years of service in hospitals and other clinical settings, Alonso and Zilinskas have used a wide range of tools in providing healthcare. But in more recent months — since last fall for Zilinskas and this spring for Alonso — the two nurses have found a new primary tool for helping people — the telephone.
In recent months, the nurses have joined the team at Accolade Inc. Based near Philadelphia, Accolade employs a range of professionals to partner with large self-insured businesses to help their insured employees and families get the most out of their healthcare spending.
Donna Snow, vice president for clinical programs at Accolade, said Accolades goal in working with clients and their families is relatively simple. “We want to help them get the right care, the first time,” Snow said.Susan Zilinskas, RN
By working directly with the insured employees and their family members, the Accolade team which includes nurses, pharmacists, social workers and medical billing and claims experts, among others personalizes care for individuals and reduces errors in treatment, Snow said. “We help them understand their options,” she said.
The process begins when clients contact Accolade. The discussions can range from questions about benefits or help locating physicians to more complex medical matters. But no matter what the question is, nurses often serve as key resources in the process, Snow said.
Accolade nurses often help clients understand symptoms or help them learn more about what to expect from hospitalizations, surgeries, diagnostic tests and other medical clinical services.
At times, Accolade nurses might simply help clients make and maintain healthy lifestyle changes.Donna Snow
Snow said nurses are valued for their ability to relate to patients “holistically,” as well as to critically assess an array of situations. “Our nurses do a lot,” she said.
But for Accolade nurses, the end of an initial phone conversation marks the beginning of a new relationship.
“From that time on, that nurse becomes their nurse,” Snow said.
“The [nurses] get to know them and their family and really understand what’s going on.”
Alonso and Zilinskas said they still are working with clients months after first communications.
Alonso said one client called in with a benefits question.
By speaking with him, she was able to determine that the man suffered from mental health difficulties related to struggles with his weight.
Helping him work through those issues, Alonso was able to steer the man to the medical help he needed to deal with physiological issues, as well.
“He was able to get off disability and get back to work,” Alonso said.
“He was so proud that he did that. Its very rewarding.”
Zilinskas related an instance in which she helped a client avoid a clinical trial that wasnt a good fit.
“We started just by helping him look for a new doctor,” Zilinskas said. “But we have the ability and the time to make phone calls and learn what our clients really need to know.”
Accolade employs 55 nurses, Snow said, and the company is actively recruiting.
“We support our clients and we support each other,” Zilinskas said. “And we try to go to whatever end to do it.”
Jonathan Bilyk is a freelance writer.