CCO Shares How to Create a Customer-First Health Care System by Directly Engaging Members

How do you make health care more personal and customer-focused? This is a topic that comes up in my interview with Antoinette Taranto, Chief Customer Officer at The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. Antoinette leads the customer experience at this state department that provides public health insurance to the citizens of Colorado through their Health First Colorado Medicaid program and the Child Health Plan Plus; they cover approximately 1.3 million people in the state.

Antoinette has held her CCO position for over 4 years now, and while in this role, her executive director told her she needed to figure out how to engage the people who are newly covered. Since the organization historically focused on providers, state legislators, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, they wanted to change the direction to become more customer-focused.

Lean into Your Customers

Upon beginning her work as the organization’s CCO, Antoinette spent time gathering information on customer related KPIs and data. She looked at all of the customer touchpoints and pain points, collected data from call centers to gather complaints and feedback, and reviewed communications previously sent to members. In addition to understanding the customer’s POV, she also met with executive leadership to understand their individual perspectives and pain points. When looking at how all of the pieces come together, Antoinette realized that the Department needed to focus on improving operations in order to shift the culture to becoming member-first. 

Antoinette focused on creating a culture shift to that of person-centeredness. How do you do this and engage customers as a public health insurance? Through grant money they received from the Colorado Health Foundation, Antoinette was able to create an experience advisory council comprised of actual members. This was a big first step of engagement. The advisory council meets monthly and helps to shape everything the Department does around customer experience, their programs, and operations.

Invite Your Customers to be Part of the Process

CCO Shares How to Create a Customer-First Health Care System by Directly Engaging MembersHow do you get members interested in participating in a council? Well, you reach out to them directly. Antoinette gathered interest from the members by sending them an email blast saying, “we want to hear from you,” informing the members on how they can get involved with the process. They got about 500 applicants from across the state.

The council hosts in-person meetings where they have anywhere between 12 and 20 members who travel to Denver. There’s also a virtual meeting amongst a couple of hundred people. For the virtual meetings, the Department distributes surveys for the members to complete. The Department also invites folks from across their organization to attend meetings regarding things that are changing in the program, the policy, communications that are being sent out, and things they’re considering that may or may not go anywhere. Additionally, C-Suite partners are able to attend and speak about the programs they oversee, and discuss what works or doesn’t work for individuals.

The Department also did a major overhaul to the member handbooks. They previously had around 13 handbooks for members which were all quite redundant. Realizing that this was the result of work done in silos, they were able to make changes to redesign the book in a digital format and print it to 10 sheets of paper, printed double-sided, and folded in half. Though technically 40 half pages, it is now down from 160 full, double-sided pages. Through focus groups and member feedback, they were able to consolidate the handbook with simpler language, while also meeting the proper regulations and getting to the point.

Build Customer Engagement into the Budget

Aside from creating the advisory council, Antoinette needed to operationalize customer engagement and has been creating budget requests during annual planning to bring forth changes they want to see and focus on. Budget requests allow them to shape what they want to focus on, and these requests ladder back to their strategic plan.

Everything they do at the Department is “about operational excellence,” according to Antoinette. By improving call centers and creating materials that are easier for people to understand, they’ve been able to unite the organization under a shared vision.

By improving call centers and creating materials that are easier for people to understand, they’ve been able to unite the organization under a shared vision. #CX Click To Tweet

What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?

Antoinette says: 

“Never underestimate the willingness of people who want to help. While there are always challenges, I received overwhelmingly large responses from members and even internal employees who want to help and make the system better.

Even our legislators who partner and help pass legislation to really solidify this is where we want to go. I’m just humbled every day and honored to work with all these folks and really, you just don’t know until you ask.”

About Antoinette Taranto

Antoinette Taranto is the Chief Customer Officer at the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. Taranto joined the Department in 1999 and has focused on leading innovations and improvements in systems and services for providers and customers.  Through Taranto’s leadership, Coloradans can apply for benefits online and receive instant decisions, and county workers have improved systems and processes to assist customers. Taranto has been honored as a manager of the year and has led her teams to win both national and local awards in communications and information technology service innovation.


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