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Fighting for members through advocacy: An interview with Kate Rollins, SVP, Clinical Ops

By Accolade | March 16, 2023 | 6 min read

We sat down recently with Kate Rollins, senior vice president of clinical operations for Accolade, to learn more about her background and current role. We also sought to understand what makes Accolade's nurses unique and what sets Accolade apart from the competition.

Q: You have an impressive career in nursing, including 20 years as an oncology nurse. What inspired you to join Accolade?

I'd say what really piqued my interest was how Accolade was built to advocate on behalf of patients to help navigate them through the complicated healthcare system, but what really drew me in were the members' stories. They hit me on a personal note because my mom had just completed treatment for an advanced cancer diagnosis. She's since recovered, but even with my 20-plus years of being a case manager and my sister's intensive care unit nurse experience, we could barely manage our [mother’s healthcare journey] during this difficult time. If we couldn't do it, then nobody could. When you talk to other Accolade clinicians, you will hear similar stories.

However, it isn’t just the Accolade clinicians who make it possible to deliver Personalized Healthcare to our members daily — it's the team effort here at Accolade. I'm talking about the engineers, our care advocates, analysts, and more. They are part of the team who makes it possible so that my team can deliver care to the members and their families.

Q: Tell us more about your role here at Accolade.

I'm responsible for the clinical operations team, including nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy techs, behavioral health clinicians, social workers and registered dietitians — literally the entire team that delivers the care day-in and day-out, as well as the business operation piece of the clinical work that we do.

Q: What is it about Accolade nurses that sets them apart from competitors in how they support a member's care journey?

The difference is our focus on advocacy and navigation. In nursing school, we are taught clinical, conceptual and theoretical models, which serve as the roadmap for everything we do. While there are care and process models at Accolade, we have developed our own model that is deeply rooted in advocacy and navigation. We understand that those two concepts must be addressed to clear the way for a member to take better care of themselves or their families. For example, we do the legwork for a member to reduce their burden and make things easier. This can be as simple as making a doctor’s appointment. We also provide support for caregivers. Being a caregiver is hard work — especially if they are working and/or caring for kids on top of everything else. They may be taking their loved ones for treatment and trying to help deal with the side effects (like I did with my mother). They also need someone who understands what they are going through, is mindful of their needs, and who is willing to fight for them.

In addition, members can benefit from having someone who will guide them along their care journey. Let's say a member needs to go to the doctor. They could just contact someone at their health plan to get a list of doctors and make calls. If they are busy at work, have kids or both, they may not make themselves the priority, and it gets pushed off. Then, they may get sicker or may not make time for their preventive care. Our nurses are right there to help our members take steps to get the care they need when they need it.

Q: How does Accolade's data help nurses more effectively do their jobs?

Data is critical to any clinical operation. My team is responsible for caring for nearly 2.5 million members, and you can't have a spiral notebook to check off little boxes. We rely on data to identify trends of what's happening within the population — and to provide oversight to ensure that we have clinical quality and are compliant with the care we deliver. Data improves what we do, whether that be processes or clinical interventions.

We also use it to assess the population, understand the needs of the people we're serving and determine if there are disparities within that population. So, using data is not just a trend. It’s a tool to gain in-depth knowledge about the people we are serving, and it helps us understand the differences within that population.

The data also helps us understand who is at risk of getting the wrong care, too much care or too little care. Data guides us on the right type of support to provide that member — both now and in the future.

Many of our members do not have desk jobs which means meeting them where they are isn’t as straightforward as just calling. Those are things we must be acutely aware of so we can design solutions that will engage them in their care.

Q: How does our data and model differentiate us from our competitors?

Our competitors tend to rely on outbound engagement. Some wait until a member is approved for a procedure or has gone to the emergency room. Others must ask their members a bunch of probing questions which can cause delays or lead to inconsistencies in care.

What separates Accolade from other companies is how we use our data to help determine how to guide our members to the right clinical program or solution precisely and proactively. [The data] also provides our clinicians with in-the-moment understanding of what's going on and takes out any guessing. Data provides us with the right information at the right time, making clinical decisions consistent and evidence-based, which is a real game changer.

The data helps our care advocates collaborate with our clinicians, as well. For example, they can see that a member was identified for a transition care program due to a hospital stay and was contacted twice by a nurse — but that member didn't answer or respond to messages. If that member calls in — let’s say about a bill they received — the care advocate will immediately see that they are identified for transition care, explain that a nurse was trying to reach them and take this opportunity to connect them directly to the nurse. This differentiates us from our competitors.

To learn more about Accolade’s clinicians and how they can improve the health of your employees and their families, contact Accolade.

As Senior Vice President, Clinical Operations, Kate Rollins leads the team responsible for all clinical operations at Accolade including our 24/7 nurse triage navigation line, pharmacy and case management programs. She has extensive care management experience including inpatient, ambulatory care and community care. Her special interests include healthcare analytics and value-based care.

Prior to joining Accolade, Rollins was the senior vice president of Population Health and Innovation at GHG (formerly Gorman Health Group), a consulting firm where she led the clinical, pharmacy and Medicare Star ratings practice areas serving national and regional health plans. Prior to that role, she served as the chief nurse executive at Evolent Health, a population health management company specializing in partnering with employers, payers and providers to reduce the total cost of care, improve clinical quality and simplify administration.

Rollins earned her Master of Science in Nursing with a focus on community public health from the Catholic University of America. She received her post-master’s certificate focusing on trajectories of chronic illness from Duke University.

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