Scaling Up for Annual Reverification
Barbara Whitten, Vice President of Shared Services and Strategic Projects at Lash Group, shares a behind-the-scenes look at the annual reverification process.
Annual benefits changes with a new plan year can lead to gaps in coverage that leave patients without access to their prescribed medications while their benefits are verified. The annual reverification (AR) period is a time when patient support providers like Lash Group help minimize disruptions in therapy. Barbara Whitten, Vice President of Shared Services and Strategic Projects at Lash Group, discusses the complexities of the process, the people and technology demands, and how Lash Group scales up to facilitate hundreds of thousands of seamless benefit verifications during this critical time each year.
Q: What is annual reverification and why is it so important?Barbara Whitten: Navigating the benefits coverage landscape as a patient can be difficult, to say the least, and if you are already on a given therapy as part of a commercial plan or through Medicare or Medicaid, you probably know those plans change with each calendar year. So, every 12 months there is the potential for a lapse in therapy or coverage if a patient doesn't understand what those changes mean. The support Lash Group provides during the annual reverification of benefits is critically important for patients because it helps minimize these lapses.
BW: Annual reverification takes place over a 4-6 week period beginning on January 1st of each year, but our strategy for supporting patients' therapy and minimizing disruption requires a year-round effort. We work closely with our manufacturer clients months in advance to align on the scope of a given year's reverification. This then informs the people, space, and infrastructure requirements needed to scale and meet the needs of patients.
Q: What is Lash Group's strategy for minimizing disruption during annual reverification, and how does your approach stand out?
BW: We complete a large number of benefit verifications during annual enrollment each year. That, in turn, requires millions of points of contact with payers and providers. That, in turn, requires millions of points of contact with payers and providers. In support of this, we will hire thousands of seasonal associates—meaning we'll almost double in size given the number of current full-time associates we already employ. In order to pull it off, we have to have a great partnership with our Facilities, IT, and Talent Acquisition partners. While we utilize industry-leading technology that enables our efforts, we know that people really make the difference.
Q: How does Lash Group prepare to scale up for annual reverification each year?
The most significant challenge we experience is typically around space. The good news for us is that Lash Group has been growing, including the new facilities at our Fort Mill, South Carolina and Brooks, Kentucky locations.
BW: Last year, we designed videos that aim to help associates understand our guiding principles and make them feel like they're a part of Lash Group and AmerisourceBergen from day one. Our facilities also provide a lot of benefits. During annual reverification, we bring additional food trucks and vendors onsite. We also create a number of incentives for high performers. Given the nature of the work and the fact that people are working long hours over six weeks it's important to keep things lively. Each of our programs has a theme—we have days when people get dressed up and there's music.
Q: How do you keep morale and performance high during this period?
BW: One way we've improved the process is through technology. We know this process isn't just about adding staff, nor is it about entirely automating everything. We have an electronic benefits verification (eBV) solution that is making it possible to automate a greater number of benefit verifications and deploy our highly trained counselors to tackle the more challenging or complicated cases. We've also adopted software to assist with space planning and utilize a web-enabled training for the workforce we bring on during this time.
Q: What improvements have you made to the annual reverification process over the years?
BW: Our teams understood this was something critical to the business. But in light of its demanding nature, it was not viewed positively and not always well-coordinated.
Q: From a leadership perspective, what does it take to create a shared vision and sense of value around such a potentially unwieldy project?
For me, part of leadership is about creating ownership over a project. We now have a small team that manages annual reverification year-round. Having team members with strong project management skills and vision working with cross-functional players has built a cohesive process and aligned ownership.
We also did some internal and ongoing messaging to ensure our associates and the organization as a whole understood the value annual reverification brings to our business. Once folks began to understand the nature of the work we do, ensuring access to medications for patients, we had people sharing their skills in ways that made a difference. There was an ownership component, a recognition component and a marketing component.
Now we talk about annual reverification with clients as a differentiator. That's what has put us in a position to expand and ensure patients have the best possible access to their medications.