According to our 2016 consumer survey, 85 percent of Massachusetts residents believe physicians and their patients should talk about end-of-life care, but only 15 percent have had these conversations. And less than half have named a health care agent. To help address this gap, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) piloted the Healthy Blue Advance Care Planning Coaches program this fall to encourage its associates to engage in advance care planning conversations. After hosting successful lunch-and-learn sessions on advance care planning in-house, BCBSMA noticed that a highly motivated sub-set of attendees were interested in learning how to lead these sessions to help spread the word. Last October, 11 Blue Cross Blue Shield associates settled in for a three-hour training with Rev. Rosemary Lloyd, Advisor to Faith Communities at The Conversation Project, and Ellen DiPaola, Esq., CEO and President of Honoring Choices Massachusetts, to equip them to host their own advance care planning sessions for their fellow associates as well as within their communities.
Rosemary introduced the coaches to The Conversation Project’s starter kits, which are free, downloadable online resources that guide individuals through important conversations around their end-of-life wishes and preferences for care.
Coaches were also introduced to the Honoring Choices’ Getting Started Tool Kit, a do-it-yourself resource that provides step-by-step instructions for individuals to craft their personal health care plan.
“I was thrilled to team up with Rosemary,” said Ellen. “This is the first time we’ve combined the tools from Honoring Choices and The Conversation Project, giving the coaches a comprehensive approach to advance care planning that they can offer to their fellow associates.”
During the training, coaches leaned how to navigate what can sometimes be tough conversations and to identify times when it might be helpful for the group to pause and take a breath before continuing on. Many associates shared poignant personal stories about end-of-life planning with their loved ones and why the cause is so important to them.
“Talking about your end-of-life wishes might seem like an intimate subject for the workplace, but it’s an important topic that everyone can relate to on a deeply human level, creating stronger bonds amongst your coworkers,” Rosemary reflected.
Anna Gosline, Senior Director of Health Policy and Strategic Initiatives at BCBSMA, manages the program. “This initiative is such an important part of our overall work on advanced illness at Blue Cross,” she said. “On the one hand, it’s a natural evolution of the onsite advance care planning sessions we started hosting in 2015 with Honoring Choices and The Conversation Project. But having this internal team of coaches, spread across our three office sites and many different functional areas, is much more than that. It’s a reflection of how we’re making advance care planning a core part of our culture of well-being for all associates. And that kind of culture change will have ripple effects through to our relationships with our employer customers as well as our members.”
In the week before Thanksgiving, the newly-trained coaches hosted their lunch and learns at their offices. The events were interactive and the audiences were incredibly engaged and eager to learn how to properly plan for end-of-life care.
Recently, the coaches enjoyed a lunch with Andrew Dreyfus, President and CEO of BCBSMA, to celebrate the first year of the program. Throughout the lunch, coaches described advance care planning as a freeing process, one that can help relieve the worry about what might happen to them and their loved ones at end-of-life by clearly documenting each person’s individual wishes and values.
BCBSMA is looking forward to holding lunch and learns for the associates throughout 2018.