October 1, 2021

2021 Pinnacle Awards Go To Caresource, Anthem

Efforts to engage seniors, reduce digital divide recognized for innovation

COLUMBUS, Ohio — For easing senior loneliness and increasing digital equity, the Ohio Association of Health Plans (OAHP) has recognized Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and CareSource with its Pinnacle Award for 2021. The award, given annually, recognizes OAHP member plans for innovative approaches to addressing challenges in healthcare.

The awards were announced at OAHP’s annual convention in Columbus. “We’re proud of the work that all our health plans do to help their members live healthier and fuller lives,” said Kelly O’Reilly, OAHP president and chief executive officer. “We’re honoring Anthem and CareSource for the truly special contributions they’ve made to ending health inequity and improving care.

“We’re honoring Anthem and CareSource for the truly special contributions they’ve made to ending health inequity and improving care.”
Kelly O’Reilly, OAHP President and Chief Executive Officer

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield: Member Connect

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield was recognized for Member Connect, an outreach effort aimed at senior citizens who are socially isolated. Senior loneliness is an epidemic that can increase the risk of mortality by as much as 45% due to depression, physical inactivity and poor medication adherence.

Anthem involved more than 5,500 Medicare Advantage members in the program, connecting each one with a social care partner and a “phone pal.” Social care partners connected members to community organizations that could help meet social and healthcare needs. Phone pals — volunteers among Anthem associates — called members once a week, providing a friendly voice and a check on their well-being.

In a survey, three-quarters or more of participants said they had become more active, felt they had more meaningful connections with people, and had a greater sense of joy and purpose. Increased activities included exercise, healthier eating and better medication adherence.

One member, a retired teacher, told Anthem she rarely left her home because she was insecure about her chronic health conditions, her lack of transportation and even her dentures. She was intimated by the prospect of interacting with healthcare providers.

Her Member Connect partners spent many weeks building a relationship of trust with her; her phone pal even helped her practice for a doctor’s appointment through role play. The woman was so successful at eating healthier, losing weight and controlling her chronic condition that she now is helping others, by leading social groups.

CareSource: Dayton-Montgomery County Digital Equity Initiative

CareSource, noting that 24% of Dayton households lack internet access, helped launch and coordinate the Dayton-Montgomery County Digital Equity Initiative. The program, initially funded by a $2 million CARES Act grant, distributed 902 laptops and provided broadband access to nearly 1,900 residents of five low-income housing communities.

CareSource provided volunteers to distribute the devices and contributed $400,000 to support the project’s long-term sustainability.

The ultimate goal was to address social determinants of health by giving members better access to online workforce development and education, but CareSource recognized the need to focus on digital literacy first and quickly pivoted.

Internet access through the initiative helped members overcome barriers to public health and safety information, telehealth and remote employment. And the direct digital link to members helped CareSource improve COVID-19 vaccination among participating members. More than 200 attended a vaccination event at which 76 people got their first vaccine doses, and 61 people used $25 gift cards to buy healthy food at an on-site mobile grocery.

CareSource plans to advance the program with more telehealth options, digital literacy training and enabling text messaging for member engagement.