Innovative use of technology nets award for UMass Medical School

July 17, 2017

UMass Medical School has won national recognition for its use of technology to help connect seniors and people with disabilities with long-term services and supports.

The National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD) has awarded second place in its Technology in Practice contest to UMass Medical School, its nonprofit business affiliate UHealthSolutions, and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA).

The three entities teamed up in 2015 to create MassOptions, a phone support line and website that provides referrals to day services, in-home supports, equipment and supplies, and mental health and personal care services.

NASUAD will present the award at its National Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, Aug. 27-31. UMass Medical School will discuss the MassOptions model and share lessons learned at a pre-conference education session.

“UMass Medical School and UHealthSolutions are extremely proud of the MassOptions program. Together with EOEA, we have brought our resources and technology together to offer a state-of-the art platform for Massachusetts elders and individuals with disabilities,” said Pamela Roddy, MBA, PMP, associate director of program development at UMass Medical School.

“Of equal importance is that we coupled this technology with a human touch. At MassOptions, the most vulnerable consumers can easily reach a live, highly trained, empathetic person invested in helping them navigate a complex delivery system.”

Before the program was launched, elders, people with disabilities and caretakers had to navigate different state agencies and programs depending on what service or help they were seeking.

MassOptions replaces this hard-to-navigate maze with a single, central referral source, under one platform providing access via the web, chat and phone  for a range of state-wide services and supports

NASUAD will now work to develop and publish a profile of MassOptions that will be sent to aging and information & referral/assistance programs across the country.

The aim of the awards contest is “to identify and disseminate promising practices on the use of technology in aging and disability I&R/A (information & referral/assistance) programs,” NASUAD notes.

In a sign of its success, MassOptions has been called upon to significantly expand its offerings since its launch two years ago. The MassOptions helpline/phone center now fields calls and works with the state's Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), which helps keeps seniors at home, and Senior Care Options.

MassOptions is run out of the UHealthSolutions’ Shrewsbury call center and is staffed with trained specialists. The helpline (1-844-422-6277) takes calls from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

The MassOptions website provides 24-hour referral help, offering information on the range of services available, with a robust search function and a separate, Spanish language site as well. In addition, the website gives consumers the ability to submit questions and get feedback and to complete a self-service referral as well.

New England INDEX, an organization that develops disability-friendly websites and operates out of the UMass Medical School Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, managed the development of the MassOptions website.

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services and EOEA  provide oversight of the MassOptions program, while UMass Medical School’s  Massachusetts Area Health Education Center provides training support and curriculum development.

MassOptions’ regional partners include the Aging and Disability Resource Consortia, the Aging Service Access Points, Area Agencies on Aging and Independent Living Centers, as well as state agencies.

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