Julie Smith, Executive Director of Value Strategy and Clinical Operations at Sanford Health Plan

For rural and underserved communities, there are a number of barriers that can prevent equitable care.

Lack of transportation, especially in outlying areas, is a significant challenge. Financial constraints can force tough decisions about how to pay for care and prescriptions. Communication challenges can also prevent members from understanding and participating in their care.

Sanford Health Plan is helping its members overcome these obstacles with an assist from dedicated staffers who join members in their health care journey. The organization uses Health Guides and Health Navigators to identify member challenges and develop solutions to connect them to the resources they need. Health Guides are available to all members, while Health Navigators are a resource for members of Medicare Advantage from Align powered by Sanford Health Plan.

“The Guides and Navigators form personal relationships with members to get to know their priorities and challenges and ensure they’re able to access appropriate care,” said Julie Smith, Executive Director of Value Strategy and Clinical Operations at Sanford Health Plan.

Sanford Health Plan serves patients and plan members across 250,000 square miles, which include Minnesota communities such as Thief River Falls, Bemidji, East Grand Forks, Canby and Worthington.

Sanford Health Guides, a no-cost benefit to plan members, help connect members to their providers, help them follow care plans and build relationships with them to better understand their barriers to care. Other services include:

  • Helping members with financial and prescription assistance
  • Identifying barriers and creating solutions to address them
  • Building relationships with members’ care teams
  • Attending appointments and advocating on members’ behalf
  • Connecting members to resources in their communities

Health Navigators help Medicare Advantage members complete health assessments, explain benefits and answer questions. Both the Health Guides and the Health Navigators provide personalized service to members by connecting them with both the medical and non-medical resources they need to improve their overall wellbeing.

“Having resources who are familiar with the entire Sanford health system, and help our members take advantage of it, is a great example of what integrated care between the health system and the health plan should look like,” Smith said.