When There’s Common Ground on Health Care, Everyone Wins

By Brian Dolan | June 26, 2017 | Rally Health

When it comes to the question of better health, there’s a saying I like: The No. 1 objective of every patient is not to be one. Helping people achieve that means encouraging everyone to ask themselves, “What can I do today to get and stay healthier?”

Employers are recognizing more than ever that a healthier workforce is a more productive workforce, so investing in a proactive approach makes sense. But if there is to be a shift from today’s reactive, care-centric approach to focusing more on helping people achieve and maintain good health, we need providers, health plans, and employers to take a step back and look at their strategies. How much are they focusing on care management, as opposed to helping employees and their families live healthier lives?

Fortunately, payers, providers, and employers are beginning to realize that their interests are the same. Helping individuals stay healthy, rather than treating them after they get sick, is better for everyone —especially the patients! And when this realignment of key stakeholder interests develops into a personalized health support system for consumers, the impact will be profound.

That was the top takeaway at our latest Rally Innovation Summit in Washington, DC. Payers, providers, and employers/consultants once again came together to look for the “bright spots” in health care, as we discussed in our blog post about the first Rally Innovation Summit earlier in the year.

For those of you who couldn’t join us this time around, here are the three “bright spots” that emerged.

 

  1. Improved Communication

We kicked it off with some updated research from Deloitte that focused on the primary interest of consumers: improving the dialogue they have with their health care providers. On a scorecard that covered everything from how they interacted with their doctors to how their insurance plans covered treatments, consumers said their No. 1 priority was to have their doctors spend more time with them and not rush through each visit.

The new data also reflect developments in technology in the marketplace that are helping improve the connection between doctor and patient, whether it be mobile devices or digital platforms such as Rally’s that enable on-point communication. One example is the number of patients with chronic illnesses who used technology to monitor and manage their condition: The figure doubled to 39 percent in just the two years from 2013 to 2015.

Guest speaker Richard Milani, MD, of Ochsner Health System in New Orleans gave some great examples of work his organization has done. Their efforts include providing digital devices that patients can use to communicate with their providers outside of the office encounter, and how that led to improved health outcomes within 90 days.

It’s important to remember that we’re really at the beginning of the digital revolution in health care, so we’re not really seeing data yet on what exposure to these new technologies can do. The value will become more apparent in the near future as the ability of digital tools to enable ongoing (rather than episodic) communication between patient and provider becomes more common.

 

  1. Better Cost Information

Aon Hewitt unveiled its brand-new research on how employers can help employees be healthier and more productive. One thing that jumped out at me was a statistic that over three-quarters of consumers (77 percent) reported “regretting a health decision that led to getting the wrong care or care that cost them more than necessary.” Most of the regret came from failing to check costs, jumping into treatment without asking the right questions, or getting bad advice.”

Interestingly, “the percentage of consumers who believe that employers should provide help continues to rise — up significantly from 2013. This trend is particularly true for millennials, especially those in their 20s.” In general, employees increasingly want their companies to:

  1. Provide programs that support a healthy lifestyle.
  2. Provide quality ratings for health care providers.
  3. Offer tools to raise awareness of personal health status and related health risks.
  4. Provide a personalized, aggregated online view of health care usage and health information.
  5. Provide information on health care service costs.

Clearly, employers are interested in better controlling their health care spending, but they’re also starting to connect the dots and see that we need to not only get people better quality care but also find ways to support them in living healthier lives, because that helps manage costs and improves productivity. I think it was important for the health plans and providers to hear that from the employers, and there was a lot of discussion about the Aon Hewitt research.

 

  1. Improved Accountability

The third leg of the stool, so to speak, was when our partners at Advisory Board shared some of their recent research on providers. Because of market payment reform and the shift to value-based payment driven by the federal government, providers will be taking on more risks for health outcomes and are going to become increasingly accountable and financially exposed over population health. So establishing an ongoing relationship is critical.

The Advisory Board research finds that consumer loyalty jumps significantly when more investment is made in creating an enduring relationship between patient and provider, rather than in simply improving the quality of doctor visits on an episodic basis. Patients seem to respond enthusiastically to a doctor who takes their individual habits and preferences into account over an extended period.

The good news is that, according to the Advisory Board, health systems are uniquely positioned to create exactly these kinds of durable relationships. This is because the nature of interactions between patient and provider tends to encourage repeat visits with a primary care physician who has access to the patient’s medical records and can offer a wide range of services. Meanwhile, the rise of digital technology makes it easier to connect patient and provider, so that each can easily share relevant information. From the patient’s point of view, this can include reviews of physicians as well as cost information, allowing them to select the right provider for their particular circumstance.

The bottom line, I think, is that people are beginning to realize that the smart strategy is to study the bright spots — not just to say “Ooh, that worked!” —  but really understand how and why something worked, and how we might be able to reproduce that experience in a scalable way built around the consumer.

The most important thing to realize is that we need a major shift, but it’s a shift in mindset, not a shift in infrastructure. We already have the provider and payer systems in place — we don’t have to build those. It’s really about changing how we use them. Best of all, it doesn’t cost anything to change your mind.

Stay tuned as the journey continues. Rally Innovation Summit No. 3 takes place in the fall of this year.

Brian Dolan is chief strategy and partner integration officer at Rally Health.

If you would like to learn more about future Rally Innovation Summits, please contact Danielle.Farrah@RallyHealth.com

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