Friday, July 1, 2022

#theVIPexperience Post #178: Somya Pandey

When I was applying to Crossroads, I read and wrote about the social determinants of health minority populations face. However, volunteering at Crossroads magnified how flawed our healthcare system truly is. Sometimes, when I am scheduling a patient’s referral, I cannot get them an appointment until months later. They are in pain or struggling in their daily lives, but it is not classified as an emergency, so they have to wait until it becomes an emergency. Then, they have to pay much costlier prices, even though they did the right thing by seeking help when they knew they were in trouble. It may even cause individuals to stop searching for care because they know it will be pointless. Often I am unable to book them a sooner date because their insurance is rarely accepted. Other times I have patients who do not have access to transportation to places that are 20 minutes away, and so they have to wait longer for appointments at the closer, yet busier locations. Sometimes I have patients who work 9-5 jobs that cannot afford to leave work for an appointment. Crossroads opened my eyes to the many heartbreaking situations in which people are unable to obtain ideal healthcare.

In the beginning, I wondered if I was actually making an impact in my community. Then, I had my first call where a patient genuinely appreciated me for accommodating their schedule so that they could attend a screening. From that point onward, I reflected on my value at Crossroads. I do truly love talking to patients whether it is to just obtain their availability or to listen to the struggles they are facing in their lives with their job or kids. I love being able to praise them for being brave and independent as they attend as many appointments as they can to take care of their health despite the obstacles they face. I love being able to validate their challenges and encourage them to keep trying. I love being able to treat members of my community as individuals and not just numbers. Crossroads has opened my eyes and ears to why I want to enter the healthcare field: because there is a glaring gap in the care marginalized communities receive, and I want to be able to connect them to better resources. I was recently told “do not say no, do know”. It basically means that as a healthcare worker, you may be treating people who are less knowledgeable about their health, so be there for them with compassion and education, or try to direct them to someone who can provide them with that.

My words of advice to incoming Crossroads team members are to know that you are making a difference! It may not seem like it, but at the end of the day, by scheduling appointments for them with knowledgeable (and hopefully educational) healthcare professionals, patients can be more confident about their health. Additionally, be aware of all the resources you have: the tips for referrals page and your team members. Asking for help is not weak, rather shows that you want the best for your patients! Lastly, reflect on your experience; hopefully, it is the beginning of your journey into providing equitable care to all.

#theVIPexperience Post #178: Perry Li

 When I first heard of a volunteer program that made phone calls at a local clinic, I honestly was expecting the experience was going to be very repetitive. However, when I investigated exactly what I was going to do as a VIP, I was drawn into making healthcare easier to navigate and more accessible to patients. I can honestly say my VIP experience was much more meaningful than I expected. From day one. From being unfamiliar with Athena and Redcap during my first shift, now VIP resources and procedures are all clear in my head.

I was surprised to experience firsthand all the various barriers to healthcare there are. From scheduling transportation to finding a healthcare provider that takes a particular insurance, to scheduling an appointment that doesn't conflict with a work schedule, it certainly opened my eyes to how big an issue this is. Patients are relieved when I call them, allowing them the freedom to do other things instead of holding in a call to a provider. It always brings a smile to my face when I figure out a plan and communicate it to the patient.

Something I would let an incoming VIP know is that although it may seem intimidating at first to call patients and find the right questions to ask, it will eventually click. I remember during my first shift ever as a VIP, I awkwardly asked questions to patients, as I had a flowchart pulled up on one side, and my VIP trainer, helping me on the other side. It took me a while to be comfortable, but when it did, I had this very organized map in my mind of what I was going to say that I didn't need a flowchart or as much guidance as another VIP. It felt good.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

#theVIPexperience Post #177: Adhish Kashyap

 So far, my experience in the Crossroad Volunteer Internship Program has been outstanding. From day one, I was greeted by the other volunteers on my shift, and my shift lead did a great job of introducing me to the environment and the online systems that we use to track patient data. Although all of the new information was intimidating at first, after watching my shift lead make calls and navigate the online systems throughout the first day, I became more comfortable. There are also several resources and guides that make processes like scheduling referrals and sending letters much easier. Throughout the rest of my first rotation, I became more and more comfortable with making calls and talking to patients and hospitals over the phone. The referral making process and online systems navigation has become second nature. 

Now as I am approximately halfway through my second rotation, I realize how much I’ve learned. Through constant interaction with patients and hospitals, I’ve gotten better at talking to patients and health professionals over the phone. I’ve also gotten comfortable with using online patient information tracking systems like Athena and REDCap. Additionally, through interacting with patients regularly, I’ve learned what types of issues are common in underserved communities and what sort of health disparities may be causing such issues. As an aspiring physician, I believe it is important to be aware of these complications and disparities because of their prevalence, and it is always important to understand the underlying cause of any issue. Another benefit of the program is that volunteers sit in the center of the action. It has been really interesting to see what goes on in a health center like Crossroad. It’s definitely inspiring to see, and it gives me even more motivation to continue on this career path.

Friday, May 27, 2022

#theVIPexperience Post #176: Prina Patel

 I found out about crossroads through a friend that was already a VIP. They would always talk about how being a VIP has impacted their life and their goals for the future. The program immediately interested me because it aligned perfectly with my goals for my future career. When I applied to this program, I was not sure what to exactly except but as I am finishing up my second rotation, I am glad I applied to the program as I have been able to gain valuable experiences. Before being a VIP I did not know much about behind the scenes of scheduling an appointment, transportation, or how the insurance works. Through this program I have been able to learn so much about how the insurance works and how to find a provider that takes the patients insurance and how to schedule a transportation.  

Through my interactions with patients and doing referrals I have been able to learn and experience about the population that crossroads serves. I have learned so much about the health disparities that are faced by the underprivileged people across the nation. I have also been able to learn to navigate through the medical records system. Through doing referrals I was able to learn how to send a fax a referral along with troubleshooting any issues.  This experience allows me to impact a person’s life whether it be to helping them with scheduling appointment, transportation or helping them find a provider that takes their insurance. It makes me happy to hear the relief in the patient’s voices when I tell them I have scheduled their appointment or transportation. 

I remember being nervous on my first day as a VIP. I was not sure if I will be able to learn to all the information and remember it. Over time, by doing more and more referrals I was able to pick on new skills which made doing the referrals easier. My advice to new VIPs would be to have patience when learning the information and taking things one step at a time along with enjoying the experience! 

#theVIPexperience Post #175: Joanna Klika

 When I first started at Crossroad, I did not know that to expect. I had a couple friends who were already involved in the program, and they all said it was an amazing experience. However, I did not know much about what my responsibilities would be. I knew that I would be gaining insight into community health and the healthcare system. I also knew that I would have the opportunity for patient interaction, but that was it. I was nervous to attend my first shift since I did not know any of the other volunteers, and I was worried that I would mess something up while talking to a patient or scheduling for a patient. Luckily, my shift lead was very kind and encouraging while teaching me how to navigate the online systems that we use and how to talk to patients. Aside from gaining a new perspective on the workings of the healthcare system, I have also gained a lot of new friends from this program. Talking to the other volunteers has made even the most frustrating shifts enjoyable.

Now, on my second rotation, I have learned a lot about healthcare and have seen the real world affects of some of the concepts that they teach in classes. I have seen the barriers that the community Crossroad serves face. The most frustrating part of being a VIP is trying to call different offices and hospitals. Often, we are put on hold for long periods of time just to be told that they have not received the referral or that there are no appointments available for months. Scheduling transportation can be just as long of a process. I was surprised to discover how many rules and restrictions there are to do this. Fortunately, as VIP’s we have the time to sit on the phone or call the hospital, office, or insurance company back. Since this is such a time-consuming process, I can see how impactful Crossroad services are on the local community

#theVIPexperience Post #174: Mariam Elgomos

 Volunteering at Crossroads had been a huge breakthrough for me when it comes to my

interest in medicine and patient care. I have come to discover more about my love of working

with patients and helping them have a better patient and healthcare experience. It really put

things into perspective for me when it comes to scheduling referrals as I had not realized how

tedious and time consuming the process of just scheduling one referral can be. Up until I was 18,

my mother would always schedule my appointments for me, and I had always thought it was the

easiest thing in the world. Just a single phone call, I would always think to myself. I didn’t keep

in mind how long you can be on hold when calling care provider offices, or the hassle working

with insurance companies can be. As a volunteer intern at Crossroads, I got to experience all of

that, and I was able to truly perceive the difficulties that patients especially ones with low

income have to go through to schedule a single appointment/referral. These are the same patients

that work 1 to 3 jobs full time every single day to provide for themselves and/or their families,

not to mention they also have the responsibility of scheduling their kids’/family members’

appointments as well.

In addition to that, my eyes were opened to how much more of a difficult process it is for

the Spanish speaking patient community as the language barrier proposes another obstacle for

them and may make them hesitant from reaching out for help from a doctor/scheduling a

checkup thinking that their language barrier will make it not worth it. I have worked with a

couple of Spanish speaking patients as I have taken Spanish for almost 6 years, and I wanted to

use the gifts I had in helping others which is another thing that Crossroad taught me. In life we

are given gifts, whether they’re inherent gifts, privileges, or ones we had to work for. We can

and should use these gifts to help those around us because that is what brings us together and

makes us all united and help make the world a better place, even if it is the little things. One of

my gifts that I remain thankful for, is that I was able to get an education in Spanish and continue

to pursue a minor in it. I feel very honored to be able to share that with people who need it. Just

hearing the words “gracias” or “thank you that really took a lot of load off my shoulder” from

one of the patients I talked to one day made me so happy and more motivated to continue to try

my best to make every patient experience count and to make sure they know that we are there for

them and we care for their health which is why we as volunteer interns do this. I am thankful to

be a part of this experience and will always continue to try my best to provide the patient

community at Crossroads with the best and most accessible healthcare experience.

#theVIPexperience Post #173: Naga Pokala

 Walking into Crossroad for the first time, I felt timid and out of place. I was unsure whether I had the necessary skills to interact with a patient or confidence to be speaking with more experienced professionals of the patient’s care team. After being briefed with the general do’s and don'ts of speaking with a patient, I remember my Shift Lead prompting me to attempt my first phone call. Hesitantly, I took the phone and stuck to the script, speaking in a small voice, afraid to say something out of order. 

Despite feeling anxious about taking on a serious responsibility, I was able to learn quickly due to a plethora of resources.  The supportive environment eased my nervousness, and I am grateful for older VIPs that were patient with my questions and guided me. As I began to make more phone calls, I started to notice certain barriers that would consistently delay scheduling referrals. 

Though I was aware of barriers that prevented at-risk populations from accessing necessary healthcare, I learned about how specifically factors such as transportation, lack of insurance, or language barriers affected their ability to seek help for their needs. Some patients lived in more rural areas, so they needed to drive thirty to forty minutes just to access a hospital, because they required care beyond what their local clinic could provide. If these patients did not have insurance, they would not seek care and instead continue living with their health issues, which would develop into more chronic diseases. Patients that could not speak English fluently cannot schedule appointments by themselves, as they must understand terms such as “primary care provider” or medical jargon about their conditions. While scheduling referrals, I would often become frustrated for being put on hold for 20-40 minutes just to schedule one appointment or when appointment dates were available 3-4 months from the date it was scheduled. These patients have to live their day-to-day lives dealing with their pain until they can receive treatment. These experiences have informed me about the realities of the American healthcare system. I am thankful to be an outlet for these patients because they can talk about what they’ve been experiencing and voice their frustrations to me. 

My words of advice to future VIPs are to understand that they were selected to be a VIP for a reason, so they are competent and qualified to assist patients with scheduling appointments and transportation. The training guides are excellent resources for navigating REDCap and Athena. Be ready to learn and do not hesitate to reach out to fellow VIPs for help.