Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Normal Day at Accolade: The Accolade Olympics

Health care is a team sport which, when done well, appears as elegant and seamless as watching the Dream Team at the Olympics.  It is a sport that combines the talents of many skilled professionals while also including the caring amateurs who are closest to the patient.  I have a chance every day to watch and take part in this team sport as part of the Accolade Olympics.  The nice part of this is these Olympics are normal days rather than once every four year events surrounded by pageantry. 

Recently, I expanded my chance to observe our teams at work.  It was almost by chance that I accomplished this and it involved something as mundane as changing my office.  But to understand this change, first you have to define what an office is as my office is a riddle.  The riddle goes, “When is an office small but large, central but peripheral, alone but surrounded by people, and on different floors in a building and even in different buildings?”  The answer is when the office is actually a standing desk on wheels that can be parked anywhere in the office.  I have used a standing desk for a long time,  mainly for health and comfort reasons, however I recently switched to a standing desk on wheels that I can take and park anywhere.    Now that Accolade is in more than one location, I even have similar “offices” in both of our locations.  I have found that this allows me to spend time working in different parts of the company from one day to the next and even from one hour to the next if I like.  So now I get to spend time with more of some of the neatest people in the world, the people who work as Health Assistants for the clients of Accolade and who are part of the daily Accolade Olympics. 

On a recent day while I was working at one site, I had a wonderful microcosm of an ordinary extraordinary day for an Accolade team.  I got to see Don in action, talking at length to someone with a mental health issue that had never been addressed, watching him as he paced and talked and gained the trust of that person on the phone who needed help desperately in order to create an entry into a needed visit to a therapist.  He was masterful with the only challenge being not walking into me as I also pace while on the phone working in my “office”. 

I got to listen in as Michael spoke to a doctor’s office, advocating for a client to have the office furnish a pre-certification form to the Health Plan so that a needed service could move forward and be reimbursed.  While one may think this would be simple in this instance it was not with the office showing very little desire to cooperate.  Michael, by being firm, professional, forceful and friendly all at the same time, made it happen.  It was as beautiful to watch as a 9 from the judges during the diving competition. 

I saw Dana and Marya, teaming up beautifully to help someone with a medical problem that had medical issues that needed a Clinical Health Assistant like Marya and the trust, calming and expertise in logistical and health plan related issues from a professional Health Assistant like Dana.  Both Dana and Marya made real connections with this client and you could sense the trust and calming effect both had on that person as you listened to the tag team formed by that dynamic duo.  The two person woman’s volleyball competition did not see coordination and teamwork as strong as that. 

I saw Jamie working way past her scheduled time to leave wanting to make sure that her client’s needs were totally addressed with a sense of ownership of those needs that I could only sit back and watch in awe.  No tennis match going long into the night as the match point was elusive had as dedicated a competitor as Jamie.
And I saw Curt coaching this herd of independent but team oriented professionals do their job as a Olympic coach would.  He was giving Michael positive feedback about the last client he helped while also exhorting Jamie to leave in order to take care of herself, letting her know that her own health and wellbeing was important in order for her to take care of those clients.
All this time, I was working “in” my office, on the phone and on the computer, working as a team with Melissa, a Clinical Health Assistant, Bob, a pharmacist and with the clinician at the Pharmacy Benefits Manager as well as with our Employer to address a pharmacy policy that had unintended consequences for a number of clients.  That extended team was able to adjust that policy so as to maintain the quality of clinical decision making while also improving the policy so that the unexpected consequences would not occur again.  I was working with Colleen, another Clinical Health Assistant who was helping a client with a problem that was extremely serious and urgent in nature as he was in danger of losing his leg due to circulation problems and his vascular surgeon was away.  The surgeon who was present was not being helpful but by working with the clinical leadership of the hospital and building them into the team for this issue, we were able to get this man the care he needed provided by a different surgeon and possibly save his leg. 

In other words, this was a normal day for a normal team at Accolade that play the team sport of health in a way that Olympians would envy.  I have the wonderful fun and honor of being an occasional coach for our teams while also being a team member when needed for the broader staff and the communities we serve.  Most of all I am a fan of our dedicated Health Assistants who help so many people on a daily basis.  I love my job, my new office and especially the caring Olympic level professionals who are part of the Accolade team.