BCBS MN's ultimate goal of improving health and health outcomes begins far earlier than when a member walks through the doors of a doctor's office or hospital. It starts, says Marek, with knowing when to utilize provider services.
"The problem is that [only] 20% of members and employees understand their benefits," he says.
Instead of sending out another round of memos explaining how insurance works or holding an employee meeting explaining insurance benefits, BCBS MN decided to give its 3,000 employees access to Healthcare University, an interactive online program that uses videos, quizzes, and games to teach employees about their benefits and how to make more cost-conscious healthcare decisions.
"We've tried to educate our members," says Marek, echoing the sentiment of other employers who've attempted to increase the health literacy of their own workforce.
The tool, developed by Change Healthcare, a Brentwood, TN–based company that works with health plans to increase member engagement and reduce costs, awards points and badges to users who master a course on healthcare education.
"We were testing the theory, 'Can gamification change behavior?' " What they learned was that "Gamification is a great way to educate," says Marek.
For BCBS MN, the pilot curriculum included ten courses. Each begins with a 2–3 minute animated video. Users then answer a five-question quiz, which unlocks a game and leads to more subject areas, as well as points and badges that are made public on a leader board visible to BCBS MN members.