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TRICARE Recognizes Employee Excellence

By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2000 – TRICARE officials are working to improve their program's image by giving a high-profile pat on the back to those who go "above and beyond" to make TRICARE a success.

"We were kind of forgetting one absolutely vital group and that is the people in the trenches who deliver TRICARE every day -- the people who book the appointments, set up the referrals and help with claims, the health benefits advisers, the TRICARE support center personnel," said Air Force Col. Frank Cumberland, TRICARE's director of communications and customer service.

As a result, he said, officials started "Heroes of TRICARE," a monthly recognition program that honors an outstanding person, office, facility or organization for their achievements in helping beneficiaries learn about and successfully use TRICARE and the military health system.

Since the program's inception in June, TRICARE has recognized three Heroes for their excellence in claims work, improvements to TRICARE and patient access. Future salutes will focus on improving business processes, communications and optimization, among other areas.

Honorees receive a letter from TRICARE Management Agency Director Dr. James Sears and recognition on the agency's Internet home page at www.tricare.osd.mil. Posters highlighting the recognition go up at recipients' workplaces and in a "Hall of Heroes" at agency headquarters here, and they will be displayed at the annual DoD TRICARE Conference in January. TRICARE officials will also share the recognition with each recipient's service surgeon general.

"Maybe it's not a million dollars and maybe it's not an immediate promotion, but it announces to your peers, your customers and your leadership that you're there doing the job day to day in an outstanding manner," Cumberland said.

Cumberland also said he hopes the program "puts a face on TRICARE" in the minds of beneficiaries. "It's easy for people to think of TRICARE as a program or a benefit or a contractor, but you have to remember that, just like everything else we do in the Department of Defense, it really is people that are out there delivering the goods," he said.

The Heroes of TRICARE to date are Grace Potts and her staff at the National Naval Medical Center Branch Medical Clinic, Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, Pa.; Army Spc. William Thaxton, TRICARE Europe Region, Sembach Air Base, Germany; and Christiane Fetz, Tripler Army Medical Center, Honolulu, Hawaii. Madigan Army Medical Center, Fort Lewis, Wash., starting Oct. 1 will become the fourth Hero highlighted on the TRICARE site.

Its the itty bitty things that can cause problems, Potts said. The award citation credits Potts and her staff, Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Guptill and Theresa Puskar, with serving their 40,000 TRICARE beneficiaries with an enthusiasm and dedication reflected in surveys as 100 percent provider and patient satisfaction and minimal claims problems.

Thaxton was cited for successfully resolving over 400 claims problems of active duty members serving in remote locations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. He was also credited with helping to prevent new problems -- the number of denied claims overall for remote sites fell from 36 percent to 4 percent during his watch. Thaxton now works at Fort Meade, Md.

Fetz was cited for her service to 180,000 TRICARE beneficiaries in the Western Pacific, which includes newcomers' briefings, claims processing, patient assistance and mentor to two dozen remotely located TRICARE representatives.

Madigan was cited for outstanding clinical quality, as reflected in the perfect 100 score it received on its 1999 review by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations.

TRICARE officials say they receive 10 to 15 nominations each month. A five-member panel from the TMA Office of Communications and Customer Service selects the "Heroes." Nominations can be made online at http://www.tricare.osd.mil/newhero/newhero.htm, by fax at 703-681-3692, or by sending an e-mail message to media@tma.osd.mil.

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