Quantum Health applies retail strategies to help large self-insured organizations and their employees navigate a complex and, at times, frustrating healthcare system.

When an organization is retail-based, you think shopping, not healthcare.

That may be a correct answer most times, but Quantum Health applies retail strategies to help large self-insured organizations and their employees navigate a complex and, at times, frustrating healthcare system.

The Columbus-based company labels itself as a "consumer navigation and care coordination" organization that works with self-funded private and public sector employers across the country. Its aim is to help employees get the most from their healthcare plans and assist employers in controlling costs.

Founder and CEO Kara Trott started Quantum Health in 1999. It was the first organization in the healthcare industry to apply consumer behavior mapping strategies used by major brands like Citibank, Ford, Walmart and Coca-Cola.

Quantum Health, which employs about 500 people and continues to grow rapidly, built its consumer care coordination and navigation model based on how people experience their healthcare journey, what they need and how best to connect with them. Many of the original employees came from a retail or service background, says Shannon Skaggs, chief operating officer.

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"Unlike other industries, healthcare does not always focus on consumer experience like retail does," Skaggs says. "That's what sets us apart. We apply simple and helpful consumer methods to healthcare, and we know we can save employers and members money."

The return on investment proves those points based on the response from the company's 500,000 clients. In weekly surveys, clients consistently bestow a 95-percent satisfaction rating for service. That ranking has never dipped below 92 percent in the past 11 years, Skaggs says.

While the company's clients are clearly happy with their treatment, Quantum Health recognizes that the same caring attitude must be applied to its own staff, says Kristen Netschke, the care coordinating director.

"They are truly the heart and soul of the organization," Netschke says. "Everyone who works here, especially care coordinators and clinical staff, are on the phone all day with members and providers to help people through tough medical situations."

To that end, Quantum Health spent a lot of time analyzing what it did, including conducting surveys of focus and consumer groups, to look even deeper into its model and culture.

"We wanted to figure out what it is that makes Quantum Health light up," Skaggs says.

Last year, the company released its "new brand," based on five themed "pillars" that include "Sanctuary," "Expertise," "Stick With Them," "Friendship" and "Warrior." Rolled out in June, the company threw a week-long themed party for employees with food, events and an opportunity to win $2,500 in prizes.

It was a renewed focus, not a change in the way things had been done, Netschke says. "It was an external promise to members and an internal promise to employees," she says.

Adds Skaggs, "It helps us tell our story in a more emotional way in a transactional industry. Sometimes we shy away from the more emotional side of this industry."

For employees, the rewards are abundant and in some cases connected directly to the kind of heart-rending work they do daily. The company created a Serenity Room and the Q-Space Lounge to help employees escape tension. Staff can lie down, relax in a massage chair, do yoga or play Ping-Pong, foosball, Nintendo Wii and other games.

"The work we do is tough," Netschke says. "If you get off a difficult phone call and just need to relax, there's a place in-house where you can go and de-stress."

An on-site fitness center, a monthly "warrior feast" meal for everyone, countless raffles and giveaways, family picnics, tailgates, a chili cook-off and a year-end party are just some of the other perks.

Quantum Health also created the C.A.R.E. Stars program, which stands for Caring, Accountable, Real and Envelopes (which everyone stuffs). The program allows staff to pay tribute to one another for their service. Those recognized as a star get a certificate with a personal note from the sender. Employees can redeem earned stars for prizes. At year's end, the company enters names into a raffle for a week-long vacation.

The Quantum Leaper program is a monthly award for employees who demonstrate extraordinary service. Coworkers nominate candidates and three finalists get a certificate and gift card, with a winner earning a trophy for desk display. These winners are also eligible for a week-long trip at the end of the year.

"Our culture is really wrapped around the fact that we ask people to do difficult work and to do it exceptionally well," Netschke says. "This is truly a family type of environment, and they have to feel that level of care and support from the organization."

The company also created Quantum Cares, which raises money for a range of nonprofits, such as pet rescue, food pantries, breast cancer research and others, including Life Care Alliance. The Giving Tree is designed to raise money and provide gifts for employees experiencing lack during the holiday season. Some of this charitable work is hands on. Staff earns five extra days of paid time off if they volunteer or provide community service.

"Our idea is to set aside a group of employees and figure out how we can give back to the community every year," Skaggs says. "We always try to keep some element of healthcare in our charitable giving, but we go away from that, too." For instance, a couple of employees went to Africa to build stone ovens for residents, Skaggs says.

The type of work Quantum Health executes is a magnet for a certain kind of person, Skaggs says.

"We're really changing the way healthcare is delivered to members. It's a social responsibility for us to be in business," he says. "That resonates with the people we hire. They want to help and care for people when they are experiencing some of the worst parts of their lives."

That involvement provokes conversations, ideas and new avenues for change, Skaggs says.

"There's a healthy dialogue of how we can make it better, and it is up to us to make it better," he says. "At the end of the day you can see and feel the energy in the building."

TC Brown is a freelance writer.