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Mission moment: identifying and assisting a member in distress

A few months ago, Niaomi Woody, a customer service representative at BlueCross, answered a call from a member that started like many others.

This member, eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid and part of our Dual Special Needs Plans, was seeking information about an upcoming medical appointment. Niaomi began chatting with the member and answered her questions, all the while listening intently to pick up on any other ways she could support the member.

“I always want to hear other needs someone may express beyond their initial question, like helping them understand their plan better,” Niaomi says. “That shows we understand and care.”

Niaomi Woody, BlueCross customer service representative

Niaomi needed confirmation on a question from the member’s doctor, so she asked if she could place the member on hold while she called the doctor’s office. After getting the answer she needed, Niaomi resumed the call with the member. That’s when the conversation changed.

“When I got back to her, she didn’t seem alert like she had before,” Niaomi recalls. “She seemed very confused.”

From her experience working at a cardiac care facility, Niaomi recognized potential signs of a medical emergency.  Keeping the member on the call but not alarming her, Niaomi quickly alerted her supervisor, Vikki Berry, via an instant message.  

“From what Niaomi relayed to me, I could tell she was very worried about this member,” Vikki says. 

Listening to their intuition 

As part of our standard process for potential emergencies such as this, Vikki began live monitoring the call. To her, it was apparent that Niaomi’s assessment was correct. 

“As Niaomi asked questions and we listened, the member’s speech became slurred until it sounded like moaning,” Vikki remembers. “We heard what sounded like something fell.”

Thankfully, the call remained connected. Niaomi worked to keep the member safe and communicative with only sounds from the member to guide her.  That included encouraging the member to crouch or stay seated to avoid falling and asking about any medications she might have taken.

Vikki let Niaomi know she was contacting 911 so that Niaomi could focus on the member. Vikki asked another supervisor to listen and support Niaomi while she placed that call. 

“I thought this member must be afraid,” Niaomi said. “I reassured her that she was not alone, that I wouldn’t leave her, and that help was on the way.”

First responders on the scene 

From their end, Niaomi and Vikki soon heard police knocking on the member’s door and asking her to open it. The member’s response made them think she was startled. But they didn’t hear any indication that she opened the door.  

Vikki Berry, BlueCross Dual Special Needs Plans business analyst

Vikki called 911 again to relay that it didn’t appear the police got in the house. She was told a fire department unit would also be dispatched. Niaomi and Vikki were eventually able to hear them enter the residence. The fire chief got on the member’s phone while other responders evaluated her condition.  

“He thanked us and said this was indeed a medical emergency  and that she would be taken to a hospital,” Vikki says. 

Checking in on the member — and each other 

The call lasted nearly an hour. Then, Niaomi and Vikki each spent a few minutes catching their breath before Vikki checked on her teammate.  

“Hearing the member cry out was so emotional,” Vikki recalls. “But Niaomi stayed so calm and collected during the call. She was extraordinary.”

For Niaomi, knowing the member was depending on them helped her stay focused throughout the call. 

“Then hearing the fire chief thank us, I was blown away by his gratitude,” she says.

A few weeks later, Vikki reached out to the member. Thankfully, and to the relief of all involved, the member confirmed that she was OK.  

“What I learned in our customer service training became so real to me that day,” Niaomi says. “You have to listen and really think what you’d do if that was your loved one. The thought that kept going through my mind throughout the call was, ‘I don’t want this person to feel alone.’” 

Niaomi and Vikki are humble about their actions that day. But their quick thinking and focus resulted in what were likely lifesaving steps for the member.

“I always reassure our members that they come first to us,” Niaomi adds. “This call made me more mindful of our role and reminded me why I wanted to serve members this way.”

About Marie Mosley, Senior Communications Specialist

A photo of the authorMarie joined the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee corporate communications team in 2012. A Florida native, she has more than 25 years of experience in public relations, community relations, speech writing and special event planning.

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