Adrea graduated from the Steve Hicks School of Social Work in 2017 and completed the Nonprofit Studies portfolio through the RGK Center. She now works as a team lead in healthcare operations and project management at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC).
Adrea works in the financial services division of HHSC, on the Rate Analysis Department operations team. Rate Analysis develops reimbursement methodologies and rates for Medicaid as well as other state funded programs; and administers supplemental payment programs for Texas nursing facilities, schools, hospitals, and others that fund healthcare providers across the state. When the COVID-19 crisis first hit, the department quickly responded by setting up a rate hearing to set rates for COVID-19 test kits. They also developed a disaster amendment to the Medicaid State Plan and reviewed payment schedules and procedure codes to identify items with COVID-19 implications.
“As you can imagine, we have our hands in the COVID-19 response in a number of different ways,” Adrea said, noting that the department supported programs across Texas by reviewing payment deadlines and implementing new timelines to make sure the programs are still funded. “That involved multiple areas of financial services coming together and brainstorming different scenarios that might work and proposing those to the Executive Commissioner and the Legislative Budget Board. With all the financial uncertainty, it’s important to help public health programs stay moving throughout this time.”
Adrea’s team (Planning, Coordination, and Performance) focuses on continuous improvement activities and performance measurement. They manage projects involving process and procedure analysis throughout the department to determine better, more efficient ways of doing this important work. This involves activities like process mapping, risk assessments, and the development of data tracking and reporting systems to support operational excellence.
“I’m continually assessing the work we do, identifying opportunities where we can use new tools or make something more streamlined, identify a training opportunity, etc.” said Adrea. “We are doing this at an agency level, as well. For example, our new Executive Commissioner recently restructured our agency’s organizational chart to improve functionality and reduce the time and administrative burden associated with getting decisions approved. Our division’s chain of command was shortened by one step, so even something as simple as evaluating and shuffling the organizational structure in a time like this has been able to improve the agency’s ability to be responsive more quickly.”
Many of the team’s performance improvement projects were already in motion before the COVID-19 crisis. Initiatives such as improving the website, reforming the rate hearing process, mapping out internal processes, and improving quality assurance measures were already incorporated into the department’s annual business plan or were identified internally. When the COVID-19 crisis began, these initiatives had to continue running alongside COVID-19 efforts.
Amid all the work-from-home adjustments, agency restructuring, and day-to-day projects, the organization’s leadership was also in the middle of a transition when the pandemic struck. “Our previous Executive Commissioner left in mid-March (a move that was planned well before COVID-19), and we now have an Interim Executive Commissioner. It’s a difficult time for such a transition,” said Adrea.
“Our department has very strong leadership that has rolled with these punches and prioritized both employee safety as well as our commitment to Texans. We’ve implemented new methods of communication, like having quick huddles every morning to keep everyone really engaged, and we’ve quickly adopted new technology, which allowed us to move the entire department to a teleworking model in a matter of days. The existing culture of the department has shown through. Everyone has been very positive—whatever needs to happen, we’ll make it happen. Sometimes you don’t see that level of collaboration and positivity until you’re forced to step up, so I'm really proud of our department.”