Meet Melissa Arellano, engagement specialist at Aspire Health

August 15, 2022
Melissa Arellano

Having the right information can be critical in improving and maintaining your health. This information can be different for each person as they pursue their healthiest life. Aspire Health’s Population Health Team has engagement specialists – staff who provide information and access to services that fit your individual goals. We offer education on a wide variety of health conditions, services, and engagement programs for members of the Monterey County community and Aspire Health Medicare Advantage plan members. We recently sat down with Melissa Arellano, an engagement specialist, on her role and what she likes most about helping members reach personal health goals.

Share anything about your background and why you decided to become an Engagement Specialist including what you like most about your role.

I have experience in advocacy, and I’ve travelled to Sacramento, CA and Washington, DC, and what I’ve noticed through advocacy work is that I really enjoyed speaking with community members and constituents, so I decided to explore options of how I could help people resolve their problems or provide resources in real time.

When you’re doing advocacy work, you can bring up an issue, but it’s often delayed, and you may or may not get a response for almost a year. I decided to apply for a role as an engagement specialist because it gave me the opportunity to do advocacy work in our community and help members with their issues and help connect them with resources in real time.

How do engagement specialists support patients and Aspire Health Medicare Advantage Plan members with their social and health needs?

As an engagement specialist, one of our main priorities is to do an overview and assess the members and what we call their social determinants of health (SDoH) needs. What that means is that we could break it down to social, emotional and practical concerns. Specific examples could include if patients or our members were to need resources with housing, transportation, or even care coordination. Engagement specialists are there to provide that additional support including scheduling appointments and obtaining We understand especially due to COVID-19 we still have some barriers for members getting ahold of providers offices. It’s really about getting our Aspire members the support they need.

How do you know which patients or members need outreach?

We have different outreach efforts. The Aspire Health Population Health Team wants to ensure that our services are accessible to all plan members. This means that members can do self-referrals by calling our main line at (831) 644-7490 or member services at (855) 570-1600 to let us know what’s going on. From there, they could be referred to our team’s services and an engagement specialist would work with them. Engagement specialists also work with Monterey County healthcare providers including clinics and medical groups, and they can refer patients to us. We help coordinate care, so it’s almost like we’re working with the providers to co-manage patients coordinated care.

Describe how you work with other Monterey County community resources and Aspire Health programs such as health coaching, care management and social work.

As engagement specialists, we work closely with all members of the Enhanced Care Team often. When patients disclose information related to their health needs, we can inform the member of this benefit. An example would be if the member or patient learned that their A1C or glucose level was elevated at a recent provider visit, then we can help the patient or member take next steps in managing their health.

Our team – along with all of Population Health – joins monthly community meetings with nonprofit organizations and local clinics to ensure we have available local resources. Sometimes resources are a little scarce, and they change month to month, but we are an active partner in that meeting.

Our team has also established some great connections with some of our local resources including the Monterey County Department of Social Services (DSS). If needed, we’re able to do direct referrals to these outside organizations including, Montage Health or Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System, which is great! Specific examples include if a patient needs assistance with applying for CalFresh, but they have specific questions that we don’t have access to, we have a direct contact with a DSS branch that will give the member a callback within 24 hours.

Do you have any specific stories you’d like to share when you helped an Aspire member?

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was all hands-on deck for the Enhanced Care Team – engagement specialists, health coaches and care managers. At Aspire Health, did a huge outreach effort and contacted every single Aspire Health Plan member to ensure their health needs were being met, in addition to basic needs such as picking up medications, getting groceries and helping members that were struggling during that time.

It’s been very rewarding, because a year or more later, I am still coming across these members who remember my name or my colleagues name and how significant or impactful that phone call was. Sometimes members needed something and sometimes that phone call was helpful to alleviate the isolating felt during the pandemic and shelter in place.

Aspire Health Medicare Advantage plan members have no-cost access to an enhanced care team including engagement specialists, health coaches, care managers and social workers. These professionals are ready to empower and support you on your healthcare journey. To request more information, call us today at (831) 644-7490.

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