As a child, Chanda Hurst-Davis spent much of her free time assisting seniors in need. It proved to be the beginning of her career today as a health navigator.
“I spent some summers with my grandmother in the Kingston area, and we would visit church members in the nursing home,” Chanda recalls. “I would go around and paint fingernails, run little errands, but mainly just talk to the people there.”
Those small acts of caring and conversation made her more grateful – and provided inspiration for the future.
Determined to make a difference
Chanda joined BlueCross in 2015, advising doctors and their staff on implementing and tracking best practices and processes that ensured members got the right care at the right time. Now she serves as an onsite health navigator working primarily with City of Knoxville employees.
Her role is unique because members come to her directly for support and she helps them identify the resources they need.
“The City of Knoxville has more than 1,500 full-time employees and 3,300 members we serve,” she says. “My job is to make sure these members have access to care and ensure they’re receiving the proper care. That’s done by guiding them through wellness, care coordination, and collaboration with providers to make sure all their needs are met.”
“The same question — What is this member’s individualized needs? — drives all of my efforts. But the answer is always different.”
To illustrate how she finds such an answer, Chanda walks through a scenario.
“If I’m meeting with a member who has diabetes, I’m recommending they have their eye and foot exams,” she says. “I’m also checking claims to ensure they’ve had their lab work and tests to help manage their blood sugar. At the same time, if case management is recommended and they haven’t signed up, I’m offering to make those appointments to get them there.”
First and foremost, Chanda addresses specific medical needs, but the end goal is to enable her members to overcome those and facilitate managing themselves as a whole.
“Sometimes I have to see past their hesitation to help them take the next step,” she continues. “What are the barriers and/or challenges to scheduling appointments? Do we need to a find a doctor’s office with extended hours? Is this a person who is uncomfortable discussing their needs?”
Two members, two success moments
Chanda often recommends preventive screenings and helps members locate specialists, but some members’ needs go beyond what we typically think of as health concerns. So she also sometimes refers members to educational seminars or social support agencies.
Two recent stories reflect Chanda’s commitment to pushing past challenges, identifying resources, and providing solutions.
In the first case, Chanda helped a father with a sick daughter who was struggling to pay nearly $60,000 in medical bills — some of which Chanda helped him get reimbursed for.
Her efforts began in earnest with what can be an imposing task: organization.
“I made one Excel sheet that tracked what he owed and had already paid, and another with recommended payment agreement solutions at each practice and collection agency,” she says. “Because there were so many bills at that point, many had been turned over to a collection agency.”
Chanda recognized that dealing with any type of disease, specifically with a child, can lead to exhaustion — and it can manifest on emotional, physical, and financial levels. Through her outreach and organization, she helped this member improve his situation.
“Every time he would get things in the mail, he’d scan and email them to me,” she remembers. “This enabled me to see where some facilities hadn’t properly billed him. A few hadn’t even made the proper adjustments for his BlueCross coverage. Due to the overwhelming volume of bills, he’d made some payments he wasn’t responsible for.”
Even after helping him get paid back for overpaid bills, Chanda’s role in this story continues.
“I saw this member last week,” she says. “I feel like I decreased some of that anxiety that was keeping his head under water.”
The second case involved a legally blind member who needed a ramp installed at his home. This situation became apparent after Chanda was doing what she’s passionate about — meeting people and proactively striking up conversations.
“An acute care facility is right across the hall from my office, and throughout the day I’ll pop in to meet members, give them my card, and let them know how I can help,” she says. “I met this member and his wife, and she said, ‘Yes, we do need something.’ So she started sharing their story.”
Chanda immediately started identifying available local resources.
“In this particular situation and diagnosis, I found out that United Way could come to the member’s home and install a ramp,” she says. “But what helped them the most was identifying an independent rehabilitation program through the Tennessee Department of Human Services where you’re assigned a social worker to actually come out and provide training on how to use medical equipment, including the ramps.”
Once again, Chanda’s part in resolving the issue was far from over.
“There’s a great need in East Tennessee for these services, and apparently only two social workers through that department can provide this specific training,” she says. “I made sure they were following through on their end to get to him.”
“You can’t just stop once you identify resources — you have to make sure they’re getting everything that they need.”
Playing a part in members’ stories
These cases illustrate why Chanda was recently awarded the BlueCross Peace of Mind Pinnacle award, our highest employee honor. They also illustrate her three-pronged approach to health navigation: hearing members’ stories, determining her role and building their trust.
“When they walk in, I know trust won’t be immediate, so I focus on getting them to share their experiences with me,” she says. “By sitting here and listening, actually hearing their story, and finding out their needs, trust is built.”
Chanda earns trust by acting on their needs, following through on promises, and reporting back to them with details on what she’s doneand what they have to do next.
“When you’ve done everything you said you were going to, when they realize we’ve been on this journey together, they’ve allowed you to become part of their story. And that is truly an honor.”
Connecting members’ stories to her own
When not sharing in members’ experiences, Chanda loves having new experiences herself, primarily through music and traveling with her family. The last concert she saw was Norah Jones, and her favorite act is the Tedeschi-Trucks Band. Outside of the office and amphitheatres, you’re most likely to find her in a school gymnasium, as all three of her children play multiple sports throughout the year.
Chanda teaches her kids they should appreciate even the smallest gifts in life, and find strength in the face of any hardship — lessons she’s learned from her members.
“It’s amazing to see what some of these members go through and come out with these smiles,” she says. “I find strength from what they’re going through, what they’re fighting every day, and then still see their smile at the end. Becoming part of their stories makes me feel pretty fortunate every day.”