ZURICH, Switzerland – Health insurer Sanagate AG has launched a digital health coaching platform for its members. The SanaHealth mobile app, created by digital health care company dacadoo, encourages users to improve their health by developing healthier lifestyle behaviors. The app measures all aspects of a person’s health and provides a health score. An automated coach keeps users on track by providing personalized messages. “This innovative app adds to Sanagate’s digital insurance strategy to provide customers with easy-to-use mobile tools to manage all aspects of their health insurance,” said Antonia Lepore, head of marketing and services at Sanagate, in a statement.
LONDON – The health insurer of the future will have to learn to embrace and balance the use of home health technology if it is going to thrive in a transforming market, according to a new report from accounting firm PwC.
The report, “The Health Insurer of the Future,” gathered responses from a survey of more than 100 insurance executives, and more than 1,700 American adults and health care leaders. It acknowledges the health industry is experiencing significant uncertainty as powerful forces work to reshape it and as a new administration settles into Washington, D.C., promising a wave of change.
“To succeed in these uneven times, health insurers should make choices now about business model changes that will position them to prosper in the future,” the report says.
To succeed, insurers should consider balancing technology with a human touch and investing in a workforce that includes those experienced in data analytics and advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain, according to the report.
That’s in line with work insurers are doing to change their role from a gatekeeper between consumers and their doctors, to a facilitator of better care, says Harry Wang, senior director of research at Parks Associates.
“That’s easier said than done because there’s plenty of legacy interest in maximizing premium collection and minimizing payout,” he said. “But it’s a strategy that sooner or later most private insurers will adopt because other options simply won’t work out in the long-term.”
Investing more in what consumers do at home and how to improve their care at home will become a critical area of operation for doctors and their partner, the insurers, said Wang.
“Collectively, they have to rely on more home health technology to reach and engage their patients and practice care services in a different way than doing it in their office,” he said. “Home health technology is thus very much to the core of their transformation.”
ARLINGTON, Va. – Payers need to embrace technology-based initiatives and offer digital options to consumers to keep up with changes in the healthcare industry, according to a report by PwC’s Health Research Institute.
“Many insurers’ moves toward value-based care have been tentative, their attempts to appeal to consumers have missed the mark, and their adoption of technology has been uneven, and, at times, misguided,” the report said.
The report solicited responses from more than 100 insurance executives, as well as data from more than 1,700 American adults. Interviews with healthcare leaders were also incorporated.
In the report, PwC’s HRI identified five models for the health insurer of the future: consumer advocate; bridge connector; lean operator; analytic sensor; and care integrator.
“To succeed in these uneven times, health insurers should make choices now about business model changes that will position them to prosper in the future,” said the report.
The report said that the health insurer of the future should pair thoughtful digital tools used directly by consumers with technology investments that enhance interactions between client-facing employees—like customer service agents or care managers—and consumers.
YARMOUTH, Maine –Health insurance giant UnitedHealthcare recently expanded access to the Real Appeal weight-loss program for members of its employer-sponsored health plans.
Members in the program receive training, tips, devices and a personal health coach to help them lose weight and manage chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes.
“United Healthcare is committed to finding new approaches to helping people reduce their risk for weight-related health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes,” said Steve Olin, Real Appeal CEO. “When employees are at a healthy weight, they are more productive and have less absenteeism.”
Through a smartphone, tablet or computer, the Real Appeal program offers participants access to an online television show; real-time face-to-face video conferencing and interactive messaging; appointment scheduling, alerts and reminders; and the ability to track goals.
If widely adopted by large and mid-sized employers nationwide, Real Appeal estimates savings of more than $25 million in health care costs annually, according to Olin.
The announcement adds UnitedHealthcare to the growing list of tech-enabled workplace wellness programs being offered at big insurers across the country like Aetna, Cigna, Humana and others.
“It’s a huge trend,” said Joe Mondy, Cigna director of public relations. “These programs are really a reaction to the affordability of health care.”
Cigna’s wellness programs offer financial incentives tied to health improvements to its customers. Customers who reach their goals receive a financial discount on health premiums or a contribution to their Health Savings Accounts.
Cigna’s program, like others, uses health coaches to motivate and engage its members. The health coaches reach out to members online or on the phone once they are enrolled in the program. Mondy said the combination of technology and personal encouragement raises the odds for success, rather than technology alone.
“That combination is a powerful tool,” Mondy said.
But perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle is member engagement, said Mondy.
“The challenge is not necessarily in the program itself, but it’s engaging the individual and sustaining that engagement for at least the 15-18 weeks it takes to form a lifestyle change,” Mondy said.
While improved health is at the crux of wellness programs, costs savings are also a big motivator.
“We’ve seen medical inflation fall down below 5% as a direct result of our programs,” said Mondy. “This is the way of the future in terms of solving escalating health care costs.”
AUCKLAND – Southern Cross Health Society will launch a workplace wellbeing program next month, aimed at workers and families across New Zealand. “We want to enable our clients and their employees to understand and take control of their personal wellbeing by connecting to a wide range of wearables and other related apps,” said Chris Watney, Southern Cross’ head of product and marketing, in a statement. New Zealand’s largest health insurer will implement dacadoo’s Health Score Platform as the foundation of the program. The app helps people actively manage their health through online games, collaborative features like social networks, and personalized feedback to engage people to remain active.
BLOOMFIELD, Conn. – Cigna will expand access and choice to affordable telehealth services for its members in 2017 by adding AMWELL to its existing offering of MDLIVE. “Since Cigna began offering telehealth to customers 10 years ago, we’ve learned a few things about how we can help people benefit from their plans in the ways that matter most: increased access and convenience, choice, care quality and affordability,” said Robert Wijnhoven, Cigna telehealth lead, in a press release. Both AMWELL and MDLIVE operate national networks of board-certified doctors that are able to treat minor medical conditions such as allergies, cold and flu, and sinusitis. Additionally, members who have mental health/substance abuse benefits with Cigna will have the option next year for individual therapy or medication management through video-based services. “We believe the best telehealth makes access to trusted, traditional health care providers more convenient, affordable and timely,” said Dr. Roy Schoenberg, AMWELL CEO and co-founder.
HARTFORD, Conn. – Aetna has announced a new program for members using Apple products.
The insurer will make Apple Watch available to select large employers and individual customers during open enrollment season, and will subsidize a significant portion of the device cost, offering monthly payroll deductions. Aetna will also provide the Apple Watch at no cost to its own employees, who will participate in the company’s wellness reimbursement program.
“We are incredibly excited to use iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch to create simple, intuitive and personalized technology solutions that will transform the health and wellness experience for our members,” said Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini in a press release.
With support from Apple, Aetna is planning several iOS-exclusive health initiatives, starting with integrated health apps for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch that will improve the ability of consumers to manage their health and increase healthy outcomes. The apps will include: care management and wellness to help guide consumers through health events like a new diagnosis or prescription medication with user-driven support from nurses and people with similar conditions; medication adherence to help consumers remember to take their medications, order refills, and connect with their doctor through their Apple Watch or iPhone; personalized health plan on-boarding, information, messaging and decision support; and integration with Apple Wallet, allowing consumers to check their deductible and pay a bill.
“Aetna’s new initiatives will be a powerful force toward creating better customer experiences in health care,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook.
The program will be available early next year.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have telemedicine parity laws for private payers, according to a recent report by the American Telemedicine Association. What’s more, of those, 22 have earned a Grade A or B, meaning they authorize state-wide coverage without any provider or technology restrictions. The so-called “Big Five” commercial payers (Aetna, Cigna, Humana, Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Healthcare) all cover telemedicine, but their coverage can vary state to state, according to the report.