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  • A GPS for Health Care - Rally Brings the Promise of Digital Navigation to CES

A GPS for Health Care - Rally Brings the Promise of Digital Navigation to CES

By Kate Rockwood | January 9, 2020 | Rally Health

Deciphering hieroglyphics. That’s how Maria Menounos describes the experience of navigating the health care system when her mom was diagnosed with brain cancer and Menounos took on the role of managing her treatment.

“I had so many challenges,” she told the packed crowd at the CES Digital Health Summit, during a panel discussion on January 7. The session was moderated by veteran journalist Katie Couric and also featured Rally Health’s chief operating officer Brenda Yang and MetLife’s head of benefits Tom Ferraro. (Watch the entire session here.)

“My thought was, let me get her to Los Angeles,” said Menounos, who lives and works there. “But was she covered in Los Angeles? Why are her prescription medications different prices in different places?”

Katie Couric, Brenda Yang, Maria Menounos, and Tom Ferraro at Rally's CES panel.

A TV host and journalist, Menounos was lucky that she could call in an assistant and a cousin who worked in the insurance field for support.

But for millions of Americans, connecting the dots around what care they need, how to access it, how much it will cost and what medications make sense, can be a daunting task.

Only 9 percent of people understand the basic language of their coverage, like out-of-pocket maximum and co-insurance. At the same time, the financial stakes for navigating through this dense fog are higher than ever: Out-of-pocket health care spending has climbed 54 percent during the past decade.

As Couric put it: “With all of the advances we’ve made [with technology] through the years, why shouldn’t we be able to find a doctor online as quickly as we can find a cat video on YouTube?”

At the CES event, panelists agreed that technology—specifically, digital navigation—can help people cut through the fog and move through the health care ecosystem more easily. It can act as the much-needed GPS that patients so desperately need.

“How did we give information to people in the past?” said MetLife’s Ferraro. “You’d set up a call center, you would have a lunch-and-learn downstairs in conference room B, and people would go downstairs and hear what you had to offer. But digital makes that so much simpler and more personalized.” (For more details on how Rally connects the dots across health care, listen to Rally’s head of product Chris Carey on the CES podcast.)

Detours Ahead

Health care needs the equivalent of GPS, because there isn’t just one challenge to circumvent—but many, said Rally’s Brenda Yang. Cost gets the most attention—and understandably so, given that “most Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $1,000 medical emergency,” she said. But the sheer complexity of the health care ecosystem makes the problem much worse.

“When you have high costs and you add on top of that high complexity…most consumers don’t know how to use the benefits that they do have to get the right treatment at the best possible price,” she said.

That’s a missed opportunity for individuals—and a huge frustration for employers, many of whom offer between five and 10 different health and well-being programs but see a continuous lack of engagement. “Digital is just what people expect now, they demand it,” Ferraro says. “Part of my job is to help people to get healthier, so they’re more productive at work, and the other piece of my job is to manage costs.” If digital initiatives can improve employee engagement and health outcomes while cutting down on unused or unnecessary programming, that’s a win-win.

Menounos experienced that personally when she had to have a benign brain tumor removed. Though she knew she had health insurance with her employer, she had never bothered to connect with a primary care physician, only seeking out a doctor when something went wrong.

“I didn’t know how to handle my insurance. I had great insurance in the entertainment industry, but never had a primary care physician,” she said. That was until symptoms that seemed to be an ear infection spurred her to make a one-off appointment, where she learned that she in fact had a brain tumor and would require surgery. “It took that first appointment with a total stranger,” to finally get connected to the care she needed.

GPS Needed

“When we talk about digital navigation in health care, what we’re really talking about is getting people to where they need to be in a complex system,” Yang told the CES audience. Early forays at this were handled through phone calls, but today’s consumers are increasingly glued to their digital devices—and want real-time, personalized navigation help at their fingertips.

Luckily, that kind of guidance isn’t some far-off dream, it’s a reality with Rally. As Yang noted, a user might have worrisome symptoms and turn to the Rally platform for next steps. They’d be guided to the right doctors, at the best cost, with tailored recommendations based on the benefits they have. They’d find help getting the medications they need at the best price points.

But it’s not just about dealing with the troublesome symptoms that made them seek out care—the full potential lies in also navigating people toward their optimal health. That might mean guiding them through post-procedure healing, for instance, so they’re less likely to return to the hospital or struggle with getting back to work and their day-to-day life. Or it might mean nudging them toward one of the many lifestyle programs that can improve everything from stress and sleep to chronic conditions.

“When you look at Maria’s situation, there were so many different puzzle pieces that she had to navigate through, mostly offline,” said Yang. “What makes Rally unique is that it takes all of these different puzzle pieces and it connects them together in a single, simple digital experience.”

And meeting consumers where they are—on their digital devices, with intuitive features that they can use in a few spare minutes between other tasks—is key to getting them engaged with their health.

Things that connect to a user’s existing digital ecosystem are most effective at looping people in, said Ferraro. “It takes a while for people to say, I’m ready to change my behavior, I’m ready to change my health,” he said. “You need something that is connected to the things that you already like, so that it’s easy for you,” whether that’s a smartphone or a Fitbit.

If the modern health care landscape is a series of back roads blanketed in dense fog with road signs in a foreign language—or hieroglyphics—it’s no surprise people feel lost and frustrated and stuck on their journeys. Digital navigation points the way forward: clearly, easily and with real results.

Couric shared her own history with pointing people in the right direction. Nearly 20 years ago, she lost her first husband to colon cancer, prompting her decision to get a colonoscopy on the Today Show. In the two decades that have followed, countless people have approached her to say they followed in her footsteps, often adding that they weren’t aware of the preventive health benefits offered by their employers.

Whether it’s greater awareness or a little nudge to take the next step toward guarding and improving their health, digital navigation “is helping consumers now, and will be helping them even more so in the future,” she said.

Kate Rockwood
Rally Health

Articles on Rally Health’s website are provided for informational purposes only, as a free resource for the public. They are not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Rally Health does not accept solicitations or compensation from any parties mentioned in the articles, and the articles are not an endorsement of any providers, experts, websites, tools, or financial consultants, services, and organizations.