MADISON, Wis. – Health engagement platform startup Kiio has received a $1 million investment from WEA Trust, a non-profit insurance company that provides group health insurance and administrative services to public employers throughout Wisconsin. The funding will be used to advance Kiio’s Low Back Pain Program, which uses an automated multi-level screening and triage process to provide patients with evidence-based care and coaching to reduce pain and improve quality of life. “The WEA Trust investment reinforces an alignment of interests where technology conveniently enables improved outcomes for patients at lower costs for both the patient and the insurer,” said Dave Grandin, president and CEO of Kiio, in a statement.
‘We can solve problems through ingenuity and invention, not through process’
NEW YORK – Oscar Health touts itself as a technology-driven company that is out to disrupt the health insurance market—and with a planned expansion into multiple states next year, it seems to be catching on.
Oscar Health guides its members through the health care system through a robust mobile app and uses analytics to provide proactive clinical insights, said Mika Limcaoco, a communications intern at the company.
“Our technology focus means we can solve problems through ingenuity and invention, not through process,” she said. “We have chosen to do it this way to make sure our members have the best and most transparent experiences as they navigate the normally opaque world of health care.”
Oscar Health announced in June that it plans to expand the availability of its products next year in New York, Texas and California, states where it already has a presence. It will also offer its products to members in Tennessee for the first time and has announced plans to work with competitor Humana on a venture for small business health insurance in Nashville. Finally, in Ohio, Oscar Health is partnering with the Cleveland Clinic to sell integrated, co-branded individual health insurance in five counties.
What sets Oscar Health apart, Limcaoco says, is its data science operation, built to extract insights from a deluge of existing health care data. It brings systems like hospitals, pharmacies, physician offices and labs together through technology and helps them talk to each other.
“We’ve created an insurance company that brings all these systems together through technology,” she said. “That’s ultimately going to build a better experience.”
Although Oscar Health’s business model depends on the health insurance exchanges established in the Affordable Care Act, which has been under attack from the Trump administration, company officials say they are focused on the long term.
“Why seek to expand in a time of uncertainty?” wrote Mario Schlosser, CEO of Oscar, in a recent blog post. “We’re confident that when the dust settles, the market for health insurance will stabilize in time for 2018.”
NEW YORK – Tech-savvy insurer Oscar Health is expanding its plan to six states next year, including New York, New Jersey, Texas, California, Tennessee and Ohio. “Why seek to expand in a time of uncertainty?” wrote Mario Schlosser, CEO and co-founder of Oscar, in a blog post. “We’re confident that when the dust settles, the market for health insurance will stabilize in time for 2018.” Oscar Health is technology-focused, using a mobile app to guide members through its network.
HYANNIS, Mass. – Jim Purcell is the former CEO of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and today spends his time as a health care speaker, futurist and reform strategist. We asked Purcell to share his views about the impact of technology on home health care today and in the future.
HHTN: How has technology impacted home health care?
PURCELL: I’m not sure that it has yet, but it will. We’re slowly moving in that direction, but we’re just scratching the surface.
HHTN: How will the interplay between technology and home health care play out?
PURCELL: Interconnectivity will be the way of the future. People are using technology to monitor their health and take care of themselves, but they are also going online to seek each other out and ask for information or advice. They are creating these little communities that root each other on, and that consumerism is going to take over and hijack health care.
HHTN: How have advances in home health technology impacted the insurance space?
PURCELL: Probably most significantly through workplace wellness programs. Many insurers offer basic workplace wellness programs, which appeal to those who already feel well, but not to those who really need them. There’s no return on investment. We can use technology and the growing consumerism of health care to create an environment for long-term behavior change and empower people to take their health care into their own hands.
HHTN: Where does technology fit in to workplace wellness programs?
PURCELL: Most good programs offer wearable devices to members, and wearables, at this point, do some good for the broader picture. Insurers can use the data they collect to identify that small number of employees who have the potential to be chronically ill in the future and get them into healthy behaviors now.
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.”