4 Big Ideas from AHIP 2012

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media , June 27, 2012

Consumer engagement (Part2). Last year at AHIP there was a lot of talk about the healthcare industry shifting from a wholesale (group) to a retail (individual) business. There was some anxious wringing of hands as health plans looked for ways to appeal to this new and important market.

Fast forward to 2012 and the conference talk has shifted to consumer responsibility. As in "how do we engage the consumer and make them more responsible for their care." There was a lot of talk about consumer empowerment, especially in terms of benefit selection and financial obligations. Be sure and consider the flip side: engaged consumers will require more attention and demand more services

The payer-physician relationship is still in transition. For all the talk about the care continuum and everyone working together for the good of the patient, there are still huge gaps between health plans and docs. Vendors told me stories about having to act as the middle man between physicians and health plans. Physicians complained about receiving out-of-date and inaccurate data about their patients from health plans. For their part, insurers complained that physicians don't know how to use the patient data they provide and don't want to learn.

Learn from other industries. A few years ago IDEO, a San Francisco design firm, developed a user-friendly shopping cart design that was featured on the TV show Nightline. Watching the show was the CEO of a Missouri hospital system, who asked IDEO to develop ideas to improve that hospital's emergency room experience.

IDEO focused on the need for patient information about what happens during an ER wait. Among IDEO's suggestions: add monitors to the ER so patients know their rank on the waiting list; staff information booths 24-7 or not at all; add valet parking to the ER; and provide patients with Velcro patches that tell hospital employees where the patient is in the treatment process. The point is that as the healthcare industry evolves, health plans need to be open to different ideas and new ways of looking at their business.

Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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