CIR New Mexico Gets Technical to Reach The Uninsured

D10775_2_4354Some 170,000 New Mexicans are newly eligible for Medicaid, and many more will benefit under the Affordable Care Act. To provide the public with reliable information and get the newly eligible to sign up in the state’s health insurance exchange, CIR delegate Dr. Kate McCalmont teamed up with other professionals at the University of New Mexico to create a mobile app called Get Covered NM. By downloading the app, residents, clinicians and community health workers can easily access accurate information about the new law written in plain language. The app also helps people navigate rules about eligibility and how to obtain coverage. Dr. McCalmont’s innovative approach to get New Mexicans covered has generated a lot of attention, with stories appearing on Albuquerque’s NPR and ABC News stations, and an interview with AAMC’s Wing of Zock. We sat down with McCalmont to understand why she developed this tool.

Where did you get the idea to do this?
My colleague Erin Corriveau and I got the idea last spring to help prepare for the rollout of the ACA. We discussed how we could help get people enrolled, and heard about community health workers using iPads to educate residents about the ACA. We thought if they could do it using iPads why not make a mobile app for the general public?

How did you turn your idea into a reality?
We initially tried to build an app that could actually enroll people, but hit a lot of red tape. The next best thing was to create a mobile app that could be used to educate patients and the general public about the intricacies of the ACA. We thought if people understood how to enroll, they would.

Erin identified someone at UNM’s business school who could help us build the app, and the NM Center on Law and Poverty also got involved. They reviewed the app and made sure it passed all the legal tape it needed to. They also made sure our language matched that of the new laws and that it could be understood by the general public.

Do you know if it’s being used?
It’s been very exciting to see the response.  Get Covered NM has been downloaded hundreds of times. We think people are really finding it useful.

How have you gotten the word out?
We have been holding enrollment fairs at UNM so patients can learn more about the new health insurance exchange and learn how to get covered. At the fairs we promote Get Covered NM and help patients and their families download it.

As part of the wider effort to educate patients about health reform, we also developed ‘ACA Badges’ for UNM doctors. The badges display some basic enrollment information and tell patients to download the app to learn more. University doctors are wearing the badges and the UNM community as a whole has been very supportive of our endeavor.

What role have medical residents played in spearheading this effort?Vitals-spring2014-purple269-final
Residents thought of the idea, designed it, built it, volunteered their time, organized enrollment events and continue to promote the use of the app. We have built this from the ground up without any funding.

We are doing this because we want to make sure the patients we treat have the resources they need to get enrolled and be protected from the cost of an illness. I work 60-80 hours a week, so this has really been a passion project of mine from the beginning.

Given NM’s high rate of uninsured, do you as a medical professional feel it’s your responsibility to be doing this?
Yes, absolutely. I support the ACA and if we want people to get health insurance we need to take a stand. Physicians need to take responsibility and make sure they are helping patients navigate the new system.

What are your ultimate goals for this project?
Eventually I would love to see this used across the state and help the younger, healthier population enroll in the exchange. For the state exchange to succeed, healthy people need to be paying into the system. This allows the older, sicker patients to use it and take advantage of its resources.

I would also like to see community health workers use Get Covered NM when they are working with the state’s more rural, underserved populations who often have low literacy rates.

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