Here’s how Indiana University (IU) Health Plans elevated customer service and member communications when COVID-19 hit.

IU Health Plans has a 4-star overall plan rating with 5 stars for customer service. But the plan knew it couldn’t rely on traditional scripts and communication practices when COVID-19 showed up in the United States.

To develop an appropriate response plan to the pandemic, IU Health Plans sought to better understand how COVID-19 impacted members, explained Elizabeth Goff, manager of Medicare Advantage outreach and special projects, during last week’s RISE virtual event, AEP Medicare Readiness Summit 2020. She said consistent cross-huddle communication between call center meetings, team huddles, and department meetings allowed everyone to touch base regularly and exchange any information learned from members, partners, providers, and brokers.

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The health plan also took a close look at quantitative data from the call center, net promoter scores, and post-call surveys as well as qualitative data from team huddles, member appreciation calls, welcome calls, the member advisory council, and post event surveys, said Goff. The data review helped the plan identify several trends early on:

  • Members need help scheduling virtual visits
  • Members consider virtual visits as important because they do not want to put off care and risk a worsened health condition
  • Members have a heightened vulnerability for appeals and grievances amid COVID-19

Based on customer feedback and existing data trends, Goff said the team reviewed processes and determined they needed to reconfigure mandatory claims adjustments as well as a transition to virtual meetings and services to better serve their members.

Action plan

To ensure a prompt response to the health emergency, IU Health Plans made widespread updates to member communications, explained Todd Rau, director of Medicare markets, who presented alongside Goff.

The communication plan consisted of revised call scripts for new member welcome calls and member appreciation calls; daily updates to acquisition center talking points and an interactive voice response message; an IU Health Plans website banner that featured COVID-19 information; a newsletter insert that included COVID-19 content;; and updated website messaging from benefit partners, Rau said.

The changes the health plan made would typically take a significant amount of time to complete, said Rau, but due to the urgency of the situation, the team was able to come together and make the changes quickly.

The health plan also adjusted benefits and member education by:

  • Providing additional telehealth options
  • Making $0 copay testing available
  • Extending meal options
  • Offering‐home fitness options
  • Providing an app to address isolation, loneliness, and fear
  • Promoting one-on-one health coaching to alleviate isolation
  • Extending healthy rewards benefit to June 2021 and adding a new feature to cover Cologuard
  • Creating virtual agent meeting room
  • Transitioning on‐site health and wellness events to virtual events


Rau said that the changes the plan made resulted in an increase in member engagement in virtual visits.. Indeed, daily virtual visits jumped from about five per day to approximately 750 visits per day.

In addition, IU Health Plans became a more integrated system by:

  • Offering free virtual COVID screens to all
  • Converting NICU to COVID ICU
  • Converting lab to testing lab, conducting 1,000 tests daily (24-hour turnaround in March)
  • Offering meals to any patient in need
  • Redeploying more than 230 volunteers to be stationed on COVID units as trained observers and unit safety officers-PPE experts