The Digital Health Guy Gets The Expert Opinion: Beth Andersen, President at Anthem Blue Cross.
Today’s blog post features something truly valuable . . . an interview with Beth Andersen. Few people have a better overview of consumer trends in connected health care. Here are some outtakes from a recent conversation between her and The Digital Health Guy, Kevin Pereau.
Kevin Pereau: You have worked for large insurance firms, advised start-ups, and served on the board of directors at Wildflower Health. Is it getting any easier to bring innovative new solutions to market?
Beth Andersen: I think that with the increased focus on meeting consumers where they are with respect to convenience and access, we are seeing an increase in the use of retail clinics, telehealth and online scheduling with primary care physicians. At the same time, there is a greater emphasis on using innovative digital solutions to make alternate types of care more readily available to the consumer. Just as our ways of shopping, and making travel and dinner reservations have changed, we are beginning to see those same concepts apply to health care. The focus is increasingly on convenience, simplifying the consumer experience, providing trusted guidance and recommendations, and personalization.
Kevin Pereau: Later in the book, we will hear from VIM founder Oren Afek. But can I ask, are firms like VIM changing the way we consume health care services? How are consumers changing their behavior? Is this really lowering costs and improving care?
Beth Andersen: VIM is a unique firm in that they do not require downloading an app. They communicate with consumers via text messaging on behalf of the physician. The company has an elegant and simple interface that is focused on consumer and provider behavior.
To have an impact on the cost of care, consumer and provider behavior must be aligned. To close gaps in care and improve health status, you cannot have a misalignment of data about the consumer’s conditions or recommendations. VIM provides an Amazon-like experience in terms of selecting your doctor, providing online scheduling so that consumers can make an informed choice and schedule appointments at their convenience. At the same time, the provider is provided with personal information about consumers, so they can have more impactful office visits. The provider and consumer are working from the same data set. VIM also can provide text messages which are powerful in increasing consumer awareness and engagement.
Kevin Pereau: Are large insurers getting better at leveraging technology to manage customer relationships?
Beth Andersen: I believe that consumers trust their doctors more than insurers and as a result, there is only so much that an insurer can do to increase consumer engagement. For certain things like checking claim payments and health savings account balances, the health plan apps are appropriate.
If you are talking about creating behavioral change or using technology as an extension of a consumer/physician relationship and improving care coordination, then I believe that the insurer needs to fade into the background and that developing tools that can support the physician/patient relationship are the future. Examples are making the PCP (primary care provider) selection process much more personalized and like a dating app, providing access to appropriate sites of care and information about the cost of that care. Emergency room, office visit, urgent care and telehealth via online scheduling, and access to telehealth are examples of a personalized, convenient consumer experience that is not just focused on claim transactions.
Kevin Pereau: If Digital Health 1.0 was all about proving people will engage and Digital Health 2.0 was about analyzing all the data generated from the Quantified Self movement, how does Digital Health 3.0, which we describe as “Connected Health,” reconnect data and make it an actionable benefit to the consumer?
Beth Andersen: Having that personalized experience based on your own health data that is shared with your provider is powerful. Being able to receive messages from providers if they notice you are not refilling your medications as prescribed, or if you are at the emergency room for a condition that could best be taken care of in an urgent care or doctor office setting are ways to direct consumers to the right care at the right time, in the right setting. This drives affordability, increased satisfaction and over time will change consumer behavior such as not using the ER for non-emergent conditions.
Kevin Pereau: Can digital health help underserved communities?
Beth Andersen: Absolutely, there are many rural areas where there is limited access to care. Telehealth fills that void. Also, people want convenience and if you have an issue at 2:00 A.M., using telehealth is wonderful.
Kevin Pereau: How important is it that we navigate the transition from fee-for-service to value-based care models?
Beth Andersen: In order to moderate the continued increase in the cost of health care, the value-based models are essential. As an industry, we have to focus on increasing the quality of care, access to preventative services and personalized care plans to address individual health status and improve access to appropriate care settings
Kevin Pereau: Any final thoughts on how innovators, providers, insurers and employers can all better work together to lower costs and improve care outcomes?
Beth Andersen: Each stakeholder in the system has an obligation to make health care more affordable. And innovation and technology play an oversized role in that goal. Collaborating to provide tools to consumers could be so powerful to change behaviors, improve the management of chronic conditions, provide access, and make sure people receive care that they need to lead healthier lives at a more affordable price.