It’s been a busy month for us at ConnectedHealth, particularly on the conferences and events front. Earlier in June, my colleague David Shevock and I attended AHIP Institute 2013 in Vegas, where I had the opportunity to speak on two panels — both focused on consumer engagement. (Side note: Thank you to AHIP for helping me prove to my family that other people sometimes like hearing me speak.) But, in all honesty, part of what I enjoyed most about AHIP Institute was just sitting back and listening to all of the new ideas and industry discussions. Here are a couple of highlights…
#1 Carriers are Concerned
Carriers have a lot of apprehension about how or whether to communicate to consumers in this new market. For example, within a payer-sponsored, group defined contribution model which only offers plans from that carrier, the insurance company doesn’t have to do much to attract a consumer. The consumer might be confused about which plan to choose, but at the end of the day, they’ll end up with a plan from that carrier. So what role does consumer communication play?
#2 Consumers Want More Salt on Their Hamburger Helper
Kathleen Ellmore, from Silverlink, gave a lot of great insight on consumer behavior. She has a long career in consumer-packaged goods (she was the brand manager for General Mills) and is a refreshing voice in the health-care world. One anecdote she shared about Hamburger Helper (a General Mills product) made an indelible impact on me: she said that when surveyed, people always responded that they wanted less salt in Hamburger Helper. But when they did in-home studies, people almost always added salt to the skillet and the plate. Upshot: People don’t necessarily want what they say they want.
A very good insight for those of us who help consumers navigate complex choices. But still, she was met with skepticism. One participant said, “consumer marketing is always about getting people to buy and use more of the product. That logic doesn’t translate to the health insurance market – a carrier isn’t able to sell a plan to an individual more than once a year.” It’s a reminder that consumerism concepts are still very foreign to many in the insurance market.
#3 Eric Topol is Cool
Featured speaker Eric Topol focused on technology innovation and the “quantified self” in health care as a means to drive costs down primarily. He’s a gadget whiz who showed participants at AHIP various health-related devices that attach to smartphones, monitors, etc. According to Eric, these devices and apps could even replace some of the functions doctors perform. It’s fascinating stuff, and something many of us at ConnectedHealth are personally exploring in our own lives. You’ll hear a lot more from us on this topic next month.
At the end of the day, AHIP Institute 2013 reiterated a point that we often discuss with ConnectedHealth partners: We are in the fourth transformation of health care. The first was group benefits after World War II; the second was the rise of social programs in the 60s; the third was the advent of HMOs in the 80s. Now, we are in the midst of the consumer-driven health-care movement, which began in the 2000’s.
Innovation takes 10 years to kick in. And health reform (courtesy of the Affordable Care Act) is serving as the accelerator of consumer-driven trends that will change the way people buy and use health-care insurance and services forever.