Carolina Veira (She/Her) is the Director of Strategic Partnerships & Sustainability, CSR, DEI of CareMax, Inc. CareMax utilizes a methodology they call “Whole Person Health“ to address not only medical needs, but mental and social needs as well. One of the most important elements to achieving and maintaining good health is having easy access to healthcare. Forty-two CareMax centers nationwide offer a full complement of services, including transportation, to meet the unique individual needs of our patients. CareMax, Inc. employs over 1,600 people across the United States.
In this episode, Carolina explains how community partnerships help build trusting relationships with patients at CareMax. (Full interview below.)
#IncludingYouPodcast Interview with Carolina Veira
[00:00:48] Amy: Welcome back to including you. I’m your host, Amy C. Waninger. My guest today is Carolina Veira. She’s the director of strategic partnerships and sustainability CSR, DEI of Care Max Inc. Care Max uses the methodology they call whole person health, to address not only medical needs, but mental and social needs as well.
[00:01:09] Amy: Their philosophy is that one of the most important elements to achieving and maintaining good health is having easy access to healthcare. So, 42 care max centers nationwide offer a full complement of services, including transportation to meet the unique needs of the individual patients. Care Max employees, over 1600 people across the US, and I am delighted Carolina to have you on the show, welcome.
[00:01:31] Carolina: Amy, thank you so much for opening your doors and your heart. I’m delighted as well and excited about this wonderful conversation.
[00:01:40] Amy: So, I know in healthcare space, there are so many things going on, the rules are always changing, the laws around healthcare are always changing needs are always changing.
[00:01:49] Amy: The science is always changing. We’ve seen during a pandemic, the demand is always changing and the staffing mix, right? So, with all of that going on in the healthcare space, why is it so important to Care Max to put a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion?
[00:02:07] Carolina: Oh, that’s a beautiful question. I think that patients want to go and be seen and be treated by people that look like them, that that open their, that people who are deliberately opening their doors to make them feel welcome and accepted and valued and listen to.
[00:02:22] Carolina: Because, what happens a lot in the healthcare industries that we want to make sure that we see patients fast and furious, and then it’s just a number, and patients as all humans, human being. We wanted to feel like they’re allocating time to us, to our needs. So that’s why it’s so important to not only hire the right people, but hire diverse people who are going to treat patients like family, but also who are going to be very innovative and deliver it about.
[00:02:54] Carolina: The initiatives that they’re implemented, cuz remember with diversity, you bring a lot of innovation to the table, a lot of new ideas, a lot of different backgrounds, that’s what makes a company successful truly cuz you open the door to things that maybe you think were not possible, right? When you allow your team members to just interject.
[00:03:15] Carolina: Share ideas, share knowledge share amongst them and share with the community. So that’s why we have been so focused not only on hiring the right talent and the right talent means diverse talent, talent that it’s willing to share opinions and share ideas, but also talent that speak different languages that that can associate and can relate to our patients.
[00:03:38] Carolina: To the rest of the staff, to community members, to the government. So, it that’s why we’re doing the work that we’re doing.
[00:03:44] Amy: And it sounds like this is really rooted in the strategy of the company that you’re looking at holistically, how do we build a competitive advantage for our company and use our people in that mix?
[00:03:57] Carolina: Absolutely, absolutely, and that’s the beauty of it, I think that we’re not only focusing on how do we have patients? How do we gain new patients, but how do we ensure that patients are also being served by people from their own community? How do we attract the talent within the communities that we work at?
[00:04:18] Carolina: That we have our centers, how do we bring those pastors at the different churches or professors or the teachers or the moms, the dad that are a part of that community, cuz that also speaks volumes right, to a part of what we’re doing. So, it’s more about creating partnerships with community members, with agencies, with governments because we understand there’s a need.
[00:04:44] Carolina: And if we are able to tap into those resources and also help, because we’re, we are also providing jobs, and we can help develop some initiatives that are going to impact the local economies. So that’s also why we do it right.
[00:05:01] Amy: Yeah, so can you tell me more about community partnerships and how you’ve undertaken this work?
[00:05:05] Amy: I’m guessing that this is one of the keys to, kinda what’s driving your success within Care Max. Can you talk just a little bit more about why the focus on community? I missed the word community partnerships. Thank you, and let me start that over. Can you tell us a little bit more about why the focus on community partnerships?
[00:05:23] Amy: Because this is something that I don’t hear a lot about when I do these interviews. I think it’s a little unique spin that Care Max is putting on this work. Can you tell us kinda where that those community partnerships are rooted? Why is that an important component for you?
[00:05:38] Carolina: And you know what, that’s another great question.
[00:05:40] Carolina: Cuz community partnerships have been, are part of their strategy from For a few years now, but I think it really was expanded thanks to COVID right. That’s when we realized, hey, we can do this work alone. We can, we have to rely on partners to supplement the work that we’re doing.
[00:05:57] Carolina: Cause we’re doing big things, but at the end of the day, you can’t see the results. If the patient is not being, if it’s not able to have food at their table. We can provide the medical resources, we can pro connect them to other agencies that are going to provide additional resources to them in, and that’s why we need those partners within the community.
[00:06:19] Carolina: And I can give you a few examples. When, what I mean by community partners, it’s not only partnering with big organizations like the related or Anthem to develop and create new centers, which is one of the partnerships that we’ve developed. It’s not only aligning with those who provide telehealth services and.
[00:06:38] Carolina: Working with a, with companies like IBM or that who can provide access to computers so they can connect via telehealth services, but it’s also working with organizations or community colleges where we can provide additional educational resources to our patients where we can contribute with their food drives to bring resources.
[00:07:02] Carolina: To that community that we’re in where we can work with companies like P and G where they donate products and we bring those products to our patients and the community, and also, let me, you, another example, chambers are a great resource to us cuz that’s where we find small business owners and that’s how we can supplement the work that we do at our centers.
[00:07:23] Carolina: We need things like “Croketas”? which is very common here in Miami or what they call “Pastilitos”? but it’s little, it’s food that can be provided to the patients on a daily basis. That work is not going to be done by big organizations, but the small business owners they’re willing to work with us. Cause sometimes deliveries cannot happen at 10:00 AM.
[00:07:44] Carolina: They happen at 11? So, working with a partner like that, a small business owner who can be who, and obviously they tend to be female, cuz as small businesses are started by women, more than men, but it’s beautiful to see how we can develop a partnership in that sense. They understand our demands.
[00:08:02] Carolina: They understand the demands of our patients and they can create custom made or tailor-made programs or services, they can provide this to our patients. So, we not only help or support those businesses, but they also support us. The person who wins here, it’s our patients, our community members.
[00:08:23] Carolina: And we need to ensure that our patients are taken care of cuz only by taking care of the most vulnerable members of our community is how we succeed.
[00:08:30] Amy: I would imagine that there’s also an element of trust building here that’s critical because there’s a lot of mistrust in various communities around healthcare, medical care hospital doctors.
[00:08:43] Amy: We’ve seen the impact of that with the health disparities that have come out well it’s a cause and effect in both directions, right? When you don’t have trust, you have health disparities, when you have health disparities, you have mistrust and it spirals, and we saw that a lot with COVID, especially where, some communities were being very well served by vaccination clinics, for example, and others were not.
[00:09:03] Amy: And then some people were very vaccine hesitant, and others were not. Does the, do these community partnerships also give you an in, in communities that may not trust you as the healthcare provider in that space,
[00:09:19] Carolina: you just said it, absolutely because we can be in the community, we’re part of their community, but not everybody is right.
[00:09:28] Carolina: It’s I am in south Florida. I know people in Houston, I, people in different cities, but I’m not there on a daily basis. So, by partnering with this organizations who are local, who truly on are part of the day-to-day activities of our patients of the people that are team members. We create that bond and that bond, the one that you’re referring to is we accelerate that trust.
[00:09:55] Carolina: They truly come to us and they understand that, oh, if you’re working with Maria, or you’re working with Mary, or you’re working with whomever, but I know this person then, okay. I’m gonna give you a chance cuz I, if she’s trusting you, okay, you, I’ll trust you, I’ll give you a chance to come and serve me.
[00:10:15] Carolina: So, we, we understand that, and that’s why we do the work that we do because by developing these partnerships, how we are able to get into the patient’s lives on a more trusting manner in a more efficient manner. They know that our resources, whatever we can offer to them are going to impact their lives and are gonna, are going to improve the way that they currently live.
[00:10:40] Carolina: And also, they understand, if that other person is putting their trust on us, then yeah, we can give you a chance. So, it, but also, it’s about, and I don’t want people to forget about this, we are developing these partnerships where we need to cultivate them, we need to support them and support.
[00:10:58] Carolina: It’s not only, hey, sending an email or sending a check if that’s the case, but also being part of their activities, being part, if they have a meeting, if they have a project, if they’re gonna paint somebody’s house, that is how you show that you truly believe in that organization’s purpose and mission, right?
[00:11:18] Carolina: Because usually if we’re partner with organizations like that, that are local to those communities, they’re doing work that is very meaningful that we may think that, oh, it’s just painting a house, yeah, but it’s truly impacting somebody’s life, cuz the person now is going to be happier and content and maybe they didn’t have resources in that house, in that home that they now have.
[00:11:39] Carolina: So, it’s what I want to ensure here that when people listen to this conversation, is that a partnership it’s it has to be meaningful for both. Not only what I get, but how can I support you? That’s the most important question, that’s the first question actually, how can I help you? And from there, how can we help those around us?
[00:12:00] Carolina: How can we help our communities? How can we help our patients? How can we help their families or friends Truly for me personally. And I know because I lead that team at Care Max, it’s about improving people’s lives and you improve people’s life by understanding their needs and acting upon that.
[00:12:18] Amy: I think this is especially important, Carolina, in a healthcare setting where people are so vulnerable. Because there’s usually, I feel it when I go to the doctor, there’s a status mismatch, I don’t have doctor in my title, and so already I feel like I’m in a disadvantage because I don’t know enough.
[00:12:35] Amy: There’s an information disparity, doctors have way access to way more information about my health than I do. There is, there are a lot of times social disparities as well. So, all of that then you think about I’m also, I’m already not feeling well or I’ve gotta worry about my health.
[00:12:51] Amy: Something’s not going right, or I probably wouldn’t be here. Most people go when they have to, not because they want to, and so you’re talking about a lot of disparities in power and status and information, but also this vulnerability that people come in with that makes that trust so much more important.
[00:13:12] Amy: Because if I don’t trust you walking down the street, if I don’t know you, if I don’t see you, how do I come to you? Be bared in front of you, right? Not just physically, but emotionally and with my medical history and that’s some of the most private stuff.
[00:13:26] Carolina: Two things about that, Amy. That’s why it’s so important for anyone to always have somebody who can help you in that medical, with your medical needs, not only, and I’m not only talking about the patient, the doctors the nurses at the centers, or your doctor’s office. I’m also talking about somebody within your family.
[00:13:48] Carolina: I’m talking about a friend who, or, a relative whomever it is who’s going to advocate for your health. It’s so important to that for someone to know what you’re going through, even if it’s a, even if it’s a headache, hey, I’m going to the ho to the doctor because I have a really bad headache.
[00:14:05] Carolina: I, I, would you come with me or anything? Just because we are more, we are, we will be better prepared if somebody’s is saying, hey, in those moments where you’re very vulnerable, somebody’s listening and paying attention for you not to discount what you know about your health, but it’s also to have somebody who supported of your needs.
[00:14:29] Carolina: You may not feel comfortable sharing something with your doctor, that advocate will and will have that information available, whatever information that is, and maybe they can have a side conversation on how you’re truly feeling. So, it’s very important, but yeah, absolutely, when it’s in those moments of need, that you need to rely on people who are truly going to take care of you and are going to put your needs first.
[00:14:53] Carolina: That’s what we all want when we go to the doctor, and that’s why I think truly PCP or primary care physicians relationships with the patients are one of the most important relationships that you can ever have more than the boyfriend and the girlfriend situation there, because they truly have to take care of your health.
[00:15:13] Carolina: Without health we have truly, what can we do? If you can be the smartest person in the room, but if you’re not feeling well and you’re not gonna be giving your hundred percent. Yeah, it’s an important relationship it’s and that’s why we understand that we have to be present in the patients lives, in our patients lives not only during the time that they go and see us at the centers physically at the clinics.
[00:15:40] Carolina: But also, in their day to day, right? Understanding their conditions at home, understanding their accessibility to education to jobs, and obviously we cannot provide everyone with a job, but we do have jobs available, but we can impact those other organizations who do provide jobs. We can partner with other organizations.
[00:16:00] Carolina: So, the whole idea is that everybody succeeds here, it’s the only way that those social determinants of health that you are talking about are going to be improved to, for our patients, for our communities, and only when I do believe that it’s, it has to be a win-win situation. What everybody has to win here.
[00:16:19] Carolina: Everybody has to benefit from this relationship. And that’s how we do it, and coincidentally or not, but I think it has a lot to do with that diversity equity and inclusion does play a huge role here. Understanding not only that we all have different needs, but different ways of communicating different ways of sharing experiences.
[00:16:38] Carolina: Sometimes we’re visual learners and sometimes we like books, we like to read, we like to get newsletters, we like, so all of that is important because it does play a role in the way that we communicate effectively how we stay what we need, what we feel, how we feel, and also how we can connect with other people.
[00:16:57] Carolina: We can talk about what our needs are, it’s by bringing that diversity equity inclusion into every single thing that we do.
[00:17:06] Amy: And so, what are you seeing as the result of all of this work? Because it sounds like a tremendous effort to go into 42 different communities and, really put down roots and get involved in social programs and, different, embedded in the faith traditions and the, the local business community.
[00:17:25] Amy: That’s a lot of work, what are you seeing as a return on all of that?
[00:17:31] Carolina: That’s another great question. I believe in the return on investment, there’s various forms of seeing it. For us, it’s not only how many patients you have, right? Because that every patient, there’s a revenue associated with that, but how?
[00:17:45] Carolina: Their lives are being improved their numbers, their data, are they going to the hospital more often than before? Or are they going less to the hospital? Are they how did they recover faster from, let’s say an episode of a cardiac arrest episode. Those numbers, they tell a story and they help us.
[00:18:05] Carolina: With our, or what you, our KPIs, right with, okay, are we doing the right an efficient job with our patients? So that’s on the health part, but also on the, since we manage and we have team members and we have teams, are those team members feeling included? Are they staying in their jobs? Are they, or are they just coming to us and then quitting after three months, are they.
[00:18:35] Carolina: Are their voices being included, are they being promoted? Are they succeeding? Are they getting pay increases? All of that it helps with the pay gap, that we are very well aware that exists out of there, especially for women particularly for women and then women of color, but that’s another conversation.
[00:18:52] Carolina: So those are elements, that’s how we can track the KPIs and the success of our initiatives or, also how the local economies are working the work that we’re doing with other small businesses, how are we impacted the revenue? How are we impacted them, impacting their one online?
[00:19:11] Carolina: And we can track that, and we, they can share the information, whatever they feel comfortable sharing because there’s small businesses that they don’t have to, but that’s also another way of tracking your success rate, and also, what is the community saying about us? Are we, are initiatives, are they being communicated to in the media?
[00:19:31] Carolina: What is the media saying about what are our competitors saying about us? When we produce an impact report, how is our board looking? How are executives looking? What’s that diversity that we’re showing there? What’s the diversity that we’re showing in our teams? All of that plays a role in that’s part of the success that we measure in the KPIs and the return on investment, for everything that we do. So, there’s a few areas there, what I’m heavily focused on, it’s obviously employee engagement, retention but also how are we improving people’s lives? What type of access do they have to additional resources? Are they feeling included? I do, Are they feeling heard? To me, it’s it.
[00:20:15] Carolina: Not only about the numbers, but also every time that I go to and visit a center and I can have a conversation with those patients, are they feeling like their lives are being improved? Are they being impacted? Do they love their doctors or not, but also do they love our company? Do they feel like.
[00:20:31] Carolina: Their company has, is truly doing something for them. And if not, then there’s work to be done and not everything’s gonna be perfect. Cause I, I would love to tell you everything is just great, everyone loves us every single patient. no, there’s going to be moments because we’re all human and there’s moments when even the patient is having a bad day.
[00:20:50] Carolina: So, everybody’s gonna have a bad day, and same thing. I mean with me, and sometimes I can have a, I can start the day, a hundred percent mode ready to take on the day and sometimes not. So, there’s always going to be instances where we can improve and those are the areas of opportunity for us, but we can track and we can see how much.
[00:21:14] Carolina: We’ve grown and how much we’ve changed people’s lives and we’ve improved people’s lives, but by that data that we have, right, the patient’s data and how are they doing physically, mentally, emotionally and also, what, to me I’m a big proponent of what is the community saying about us?
[00:21:30] Carolina: Are they trusting us? Are they inviting us to be part of their job fairs? Are they inviting us to be part of their food drives and their initiatives? Are they, are we creating events where we can impact people’s lives by sharing stories and sharing how we got to where we are? How are, how much are we mentoring people?
[00:21:48] Carolina: Are we volunteering? Are team members are they feeling, are they able to volunteer? Are they able to give back? So, all of that plays a role and all of that is a measure of success.
[00:22:01] Amy: I love that answer because it touched every single aspect of the work that you’re doing inside your organization, outside your organization, with your communities, with your patients with each other.
[00:22:15] Amy: And I, I don’t even know what to follow that with, I think that was just beautiful.
[00:22:19] Carolina: It’s, I would follow that with, we all have an opportunity to do something for others and to serve, and that’s very much how I feel, we have an opportunity to change people’s lives by being authentic and leaving on our purpose.
[00:22:36] Carolina: And, it could be a 10-minute conversation with someone in our, in our organization of how’s your day going, and what do you wanna do in three years from today? I don’t know, or simple things like that, or mentorship opportunities or saying, hey, who will be great for that project, Amy.
[00:22:58] Carolina: And sponsoring is speaking about that person when that person is not in the room, and if you have access to bringing somebody and to elevating somebody let’s do it. So, I would invite everyone who, even if they’re not doing DEI work, but they want to do something. To just do that, they can start with little things that are going to change people’s lives within their employ their job or their place of employment or within their church, whatever it is whatever in whatever space they are.
[00:23:31] Carolina: Because the convers, the question that I hear often is, but how do I get started? They think, you may think you need to have all these degrees and all these certificates, and it’s not necessarily the route, granted, I’m a big proponent of education, I love that you can learn, and I’m a, I love to learn and I love to be up to date with what’s happening out there in terms of the education, but I would invite everyone to not discount the power of the voices, the power of what they can do, even if it’s at smaller scale within, at the place where they are, because we have to meet everyone around us and especially.
[00:24:09] Carolina: Our clients, in this case for us, our patients, where they are, we have to meet them where they are, and sometimes we think that they want the latest technology or that they want the, the fastest and greatest program out there, and then we realized no, all they wanted was just to have a conversation.
[00:24:28] Carolina: They just wanted to be asked how their day was going, and how their family’s doing and how they are doing. I think that when we grow so fast and grow, society in general, we’re it’s globalization obviously is it’s taken us to places that we never dreamed of, and it’s great, but we cannot lose touch of what’s really important, and what really important here is that we’re, at the end of the day, we are humans that need to be heard, seen in valued.
[00:25:01] Amy: That is so true, that is so true Carolina. One of the things that when I speak at companies or conferences, I always take a hula hoop with me and I have everybody stand up at the end and pretend that they’re holding their hula hoop around them.
[00:25:14] Amy: And I do this for two reasons, one, because it’s a power pose and it makes people feel very powerful to stand that way and hold that hula hoop out to their, imaginary, hula hoop to their sides, but then I talk about that’s the first place you have to make inclusive is what’s inside that hula hoop.
[00:25:28] Amy: And that’s a space you can take with you everywhere you go, and I think that’s what I just heard you say is start where you are, and then wherever you go, you make that an inclusive space, and that’s where your real influence comes from.
[00:25:39] Carolina: Absolutely, absolutely, and we can make that change. We can make change happen.
[00:25:45] Carolina: It starts with us, right? What are we doing? And then when we are that inclusive person, then other inclusive people, other people who, who feel like, oh, I wanna do what that person is doing, what Amy’s doing, what Carolina’s doing, they’re gonna do it, and they’re going to share that message with others and open doors for others.
[00:26:05] Carolina: And I think ultimately anyone who does work for DEI work in general, all we want is to leave the world a better place, even if it’s a little bit it’s to leave a legacy in my case, love empathy, kindness, all those words, but in all those values, but more than anything, I’m just, I just wanna to create places where the next generations, where we can feel included where my grandpa’s, where my grandpa and my grandma can feel included.
[00:26:33] Carolina: It’s that type of feeling where all, at the end of the day, to me, all we need is love and that’s where everything starts with. It’s it, everything that I do, it’s from a place of love, from a place of understanding, and that’s why I so much believe in the work that we do, and it starts with inclusion.
[00:26:52] Carolina: Then it, it opens door for innovation, for diversity, for belonging, so that’s why I think, and I believe firmly that the work that we do is so important, so people can truly feel included.
[00:27:09] Amy: Carolina Veira, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you for sharing all of the amazing work that you’re doing and that Care Max is doing to create true community and community partnerships in, in these places before you do both notes. I think it’s amazing.
[00:27:21] Carolina: Thank you so much, Amy. Thank you for the opportunity to share and to share my experience with your audience and hopefully we get to do this again.
[00:27:31] Amy: Sounds great. Thank you.
[00:28:22] Amy: That’s it for this week’s episode of including you join me next week when my guest will be Tony Holmes from United way, Houston.