Gabriela Meneses is happy to spend a few extra minutes on the phone with any patient who has concerns about having to see a specialist. In fact, as a Patient Navigator for Southwestern Health Resources (SWHR), this is her favorite part of the job.
“I love helping the patients,” she said. “I always try to make their day a little happier.”
Meneses has been working in her role since August 2019. When a primary care physician needs assistance referring a patient to a specialist, Meneses helps that patient find one from a large list of specialty physicians within the SWHR network.
She helps ensure that the specialist and patient are a good fit for each other. “I will see which doctor meets their needs,” she said.
Making patients’ journeys easier
Having previously worked for an orthopedic specialist, Meneses said she understands how patients can be anxious about the types of health concerns that require a specialist’s care. “Obviously, they’re going to see a specialist for a reason. I feel like I can help calm them down a little bit,” she said.
Business knowledge is crucial to Meneses and her team to facilitate successful referrals. However, she said, being a good listener with a cheerful disposition helps her give patients a good customer experience.
“I most definitely love what I do,” she said, adding that SWHR is a good fit for her. Meneses, who followed both her mother’s and grandmother’s footsteps into the healthcare industry, said, “I feel like it’s just always been in my family. It’s a good field to go into.”
Strength in numbers
Being part of a strong team is another benefit of Meneses’ job at SWHR. “I love my co-workers,” she said. “We are a huge team. We are all here to help each other.” Her team comprises more than 100 patient navigators.
Meneses said her teammates communicate very well with each other and consult each other when they have questions. Also, she describes her manager, Richelle Ward, as hands-on and helpful.
For Ward, SWHR Operations Manager for Referral Management, the feeling is mutual. “Gabriela is one of the patient navigators that you can go to any time you need help anywhere,” she said. “We pride ourselves in helping with a positive patient experience.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced many organizations, including SWHR, to full-time telecommuting earlier this year, the team was quickly outfitted with the equipment they needed to continue serving patients without interruption. Meneses said, “Our company did a great job transitioning us to work from home.”
Open communication in a trying time
Meneses said her admiration for SWHR’s efforts reaches well beyond her immediate team, citing how the organization has shown its ability to move quickly to care for the urgent needs of its employees, as well as its network providers and the patients they serve.
During the pandemic, SWHR has helped facilitate telehealth visits between its network providers and patients. “I feel like that’s helped a ton of patients,” she said, adding that it’s a good option for patients who otherwise might not seek out medical care.
She also cited SWHR’s weekly online meeting for all employees. The virtual Friday afternoon “huddles,” led by SWHR Senior Executive Officer Andy Ziskind, began when employees started working from home. She has found that the huddles, which include helpful organization updates, employee stories and Q&A sessions, help keep employees informed and connected.
To work for an organization that has been so transparent and up-front with employees during the coronavirus pandemic has encouraged Meneses to do her best work, she said. “They’ve been so open and honest. I’m really proud to be with them.”