If you’ve been tasked with championing member experience measures at your organization, consider organizing and launching an improvement team along with a well-defined game plan for how that group will work together to manage the endeavor.

By now you may have heard that for 2023 Star ratings (which are largely based on the work conducted in the 2021 calendar year), the weight of member experience measures will increase from 2 to 4. This change greatly augments the importance of these measures as they will make up a significant portion (over 50 percent!) of your plan’s overall Star rating score. If you’ve been tasked with championing these measures at your organization, consider organizing and launching an improvement team along with a well-defined game plan for how that group will work together to manage the endeavor.

The structure and process you choose for your team should be governed by the needs of your organization. You may set up a formal operating committee with well-defined roles and policies and procedures, or you may opt for a more casual, informal group to lead your efforts. You’ll also have to make decisions about the details… Who will be your picks to join the team? What part will each of them play? What will be your meeting cadence? Making these choices thoughtfully on the front end will be key to moving quickly and efficiently in a way that best fits the needs of your plan. Whatever your choices, don’t worry if you need to adjust as you move along. Flexibility is important to success, and you should prepare everyone from the start that adaptability is part of the winning process.

Your picks for the dream team

Putting together an optimal “dream” team will be one of the most important factors in determining the success of your efforts. As you draft your list of team members, consider who in your organization has the right skillset as well as the right mindset. Both are important. Sit back and observe… Who has been comfortable expressing viewpoints that may seem out of the box or unpopular? Who has earned respect at various levels of the organization? Who are the true subject matter experts within the operational areas with direct touchpoints with members?

Two key team players

The “sponsor.” One of the most important team members to draft early on is the sponsor for your project. This is the team member that will serve as your megaphone within the organization, providing energy and momentum for the work of the team. Pick someone who is passionate about the work, who has garnered respect across various departments, and who is capable of exercising influence (be it by virtue of title or popularity). This team member’s sponsorship of the project is essential to removing barriers that may pop up along the way and preventing obstacles from becoming insurmountable challenges. Draft your sponsor early, even if you don’t foresee any landmines. You’ll be happy this person is on the team to clear the way and keep your work moving forward.

The “cheerleaders.” Recruit people who are infectiously passionate about the opportunity to improve the member experience across the organization. They may lack formal titles or still need to acquire technical skills, but they’ll make up for that with their enthusiasm. If you can, always choose these people over those that have more credentials or responsibilities but are not passionate about or don’t see the value of your cause. Those dispassionate people slow the team down, often arguing for the status quo or failing to deliver. The cheerleaders will always show up to do the work, even when the going is hard.

Other most valuable players

Consider the following players to round out your team:

  • The executive leader can make sure the project is adequately resourced, assist in clearing obstacles, and champion your cause throughout the plan. If you can get a team member from the C-Suite… all the better.
  • If your work will involve transforming any aspect of clinical care, ensure you have a clinician leader on the team to ensure your ideas are sound and can be carried out.
  • Analyzing data points, tracking performance, and communicating measurable improvement to leadership is key to the success of the team. You need data nerds. Include them.
  • Include people from all departments that own member touchpoints, and therefore, will be critical to driving change that may be needed to achieve improvement goals. If they own a piece of the problem, make sure they own a piece of the solution by giving them a seat at the table.

Game on

Once you’ve drafted your team, it’s time to learn and practice the plays.  As with any new team, it’s important to coalesce quickly when you first come together and commit to working collaboratively. Leaders within the team should purposefully strengthen the bond among all the players. They can do this by modeling good listening, encouraging open discussion and the expression of all views, and by guiding the team to find compromise.

Remember, the goal at the beginning is to build consensus about how to carry out the work ahead. Get the housekeeping stuff out of the way quickly by coming to agreement on the role of the team, how often you’ll meet, how you’ll make decisions, whether there will be subgroups, and how you will communicate with stakeholders within and outside the organization. Once the housekeeping is out of the way, you can embark on the hard work you must do together as a team, which is to get very good at executing these four, standard process improvement plays:

  1. Understand and be able to articulate the issues underlying performance problems
  2. Set general and discreet goals for improvement
  3. Develop a strategy and action plan to tackle the changes that need to be made to address the identified issues and goals
  4. Guide the implementation of actions across the organization

Rally your winning team

If you’re accountable for member experience improvement at your plan, you’re either coaching or quarterbacking. Either way, improve your chances of success by rallying your players around the team’s common goals. Create a unified vision for your team members and show them how they each fit into the big picture. Do this now. As I’ve urged before… Don't make the mistake of suffering from analysis paralysis. Get started as soon as possible, and don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Take the first step and get help if you need it. This is too important to wait another day.

About the author

Ana Handshuh, principal at CAT5 Strategies, is a government programs executive with expertise in creating and implementing corporate programs for the healthcare industry. Her background includes quality, core measures, care management, benefit design and bid submission, accreditation, regulatory compliance, revenue management, communications, community-based care management programs and technology integration. Ms. Handshuh currently serves on the board of the Resource Initiative and Society for Education (RISE). She is a sought after speaker on the national healthcare circuit in the areas of quality, Star ratings, care management, member and provider engagement, and revenue management. Her recent consultancy roles have included assisting organizations create programs to address the unmet care management needs in the highest risk strata of membership, document their processes and procedures, achieve accreditation status, design and submit government program bids, institute corporate-wide programs and create communications strategies and materials.