Tag Archives: PHR

Why Do We Let People Pick The Wrong Health Plan?

I was reading some of the research by McKinsey this morning on the individual market enrollment and the overall exchange product benefit design.  It got me thinking about the issue where consumers choose the wrong plan design based on their personal utilization of healthcare.  Why do we let that happen?

I know some of you are thinking “let that happen”…we don’t do that.  Others who work in the industry may be thinking that consumers can make good decisions. 

But, we know that consumers don’t spend enough time evaluating their options.  We know that consumers are overwhelmed by all the information they get about healthcare.  We know that consumers don’t have access to all their data.  And, we know that consumers can’t understand all the healthcare mumbo-jumbo that we use to explain what we do. 

“The ACA deals with the problem of consumer misunderstanding by requiring insurance companies to publish standardized and simplified information about insurance plans, including what consumers would pay for four basic services,” noted lead author Loewenstein. “However, presenting simplified information about something that is inherently complex introduces a risk of ‘smoothing over’ real complexities. A better approach, in my view, would be to require insurance companies to offer truly simplified insurance products that consumers are capable of understanding.” (source of this study)

This study from a few months ago predicted that over half of consumers would choose the wrong plan thereby causing them to spend more money out-of-pocket annually for their healthcare.  Companies understand this.  There is an initiative called Putting Patients First which created a cost estimation tool – http://www.puttingpatientsfirst.net/.  This conceptually helps.

But, the reason I say “let” is because the healthcare companies all have our data.  They know our medical claims.  They know our pharmacy claims.  They have our lab values.  Everyone has predictive risk models now.  If that data could be downloaded to a Personal Health Record (PHR) and then used to model our costs under each of the benefit plan options, we could make an informed decision. 

And, no…this isn’t just a healthcare.gov issue.  Most employees have had access to multiple plan options at their employer for years.  Sometimes all under the same health plan and sometimes with multiple health plans.  I’ve talked about this for a long time.  This would be relatively simple for an IT team to build and deploy.  It could also be a huge catalyst for the PHR movement to get data into the hands of the consumers and give them a reason to do this.  If I knew I could save $500+ per year by tracking and using my data, that should be a great reason to take action. 

Dossia: Not Just a Personal Health Record Anymore


I had a chance to see a product demo of Dossia the other day.  I was really impressed which I don’t easily say.  I was expecting to hear a pitch on Personal Health Records (PHRs) and why they were different.  Instead, I got to see a robust patient engagement portal which did some really interesting things. (see image above from the Health 2.0 demo they gave)

From their website, here’s the “about” description which lists some very influential players…

Dossia is an organization dedicated to improving health and healthcare in America by empowering individuals to make good health decisions and become more discerning healthcare consumers. Backed by some of the largest, most respected brands in the world – Applied Materials, AT&T, BP, Cardinal Health, Intel, Pitney Bowes, Vanguard Health Systems, NantWorks and Walmart – Dossia’s founding member companies have united under the common vision of changing healthcare.

Having these companies involved over the past 6 years has been really important for them to accomplish what they’ve done.  As someone that’s worked on a lot of the same population health challenges, they’ve accomplished things that not even Google Health could do.

So what were the features and functions that really impressed me:

  1. They’ve built integration to health plans, PBMs, pharmacies, lab companies, and even EMR companies.  This creates a data rich longitudinal view of the patient for the patient.  (I like the expression on their website where they say “Dossia is the connective tissue that powers healthy change.”)
  2. They’ve incorporated health content which by itself isn’t impressive, but the content is tailored to the individual based on their medical data.  Not hard, but not something that many people do well.
  3. They’ve built out a series of partnerships and integrations with over 50 apps where you can navigate that turn them on as widgets within the portal.  This is very similar to some of the cool things that CarePass is doing.
  4. They’ve built the system out using open APIs (application programming interfaces) which allows other companies to easily integrate with them.
  5. And, probably one of the cooler things from my consumer engagement lens was their ability to do WYSIWYG rules creation to trigger outbound communications based on clinical data.  The idea of a rules engine isn’t difficult, but the ease of their solution with the integrated data makes it very powerful.

And, they’ve expanded their reporting.  They’ve pulled in ways to manage those family members for which you’re a caregiver.  They’re doing lots of interesting things.  They are definitely worth talking to if you haven’t seen them in a few years.

Why Healthcare Needs A “Google Health”

Most people know that Google tried to jump into the healthcare space with Google Health a few years ago.  Google Health was (from Wikipedia):

Google Health was a personal health information centralization service (sometimes known as personal health record services) by Google introduced in 2008 and cancelled in 2011.  The service allowed Google users to volunteer their health records – either manually or by logging into their accounts at partnered health services providers – into the Google Health system, thereby merging potentially separate health records into one centralized Google Health profile.

Personally, if they wanted to build that, they should just go buy Dossia, and they would be there.  Looking backwards, you can read the announcement to cancel Google Health here, and there’s lots of articles out there about why it failed.

While they haven’t had a dedicated health team officially, they continue to have several health related projects:

  1. Helpouts is a video service that is HIPAA compliant meaning it could eventually compete with Teladoc, MDLive, and American Well.
  2. Calico is a newer company focused on aging which has lots of people wondering as they add well known executives to the core team.  
  3. They just came out with their smart contact lens to help diabetics test their blood sugar.
  4. Google has an app called My Tracks and an API to tap into some of the sensors in the phone that could be used for fitness apps.  
  5. Google X staff recently met with the FDA leading to some speculation.  
  6. Of course, there is also lots of discussion about how Google Glass could be used in healthcare.  (I personally think about the Checklist Manifesto as a perfect opportunity.)
  7. And, I would also point to the intelligent home (per their acquisition of Nest) as a venture which will lead them down the path of health at some point.

You could also look at the companies that Google Ventures is investing in from the health space:

I could have easily seen them investing in something like Theranos which stands to change the biometrics space.  

So…it’s not like they’re ignoring the space which isn’t unusual for many companies outside of healthcare.  Healthcare is hard.  Healthcare has lots of regulatory constraints.  In general, many companies want to avoid having to deal with some of those issues which can constrain the rest of their businesses.

But, let’s look at the critical and hot topics in healthcare right now:

  • BigData – how to use data; how to build predictive models
  • Engagement – how to personalize communications and engage consumers to take action from mass customization to segmentation to even gamification
  • Mobile and devices – how to use technology to track your steps, monitor your health, and collect data (see post about why your underwriter wants your mobile data)
  • Social – how to use social pressures and peers to create better health
  • Connectivity – how to connect devices, caregivers, pharmacies, providers, and others into a shared platform for care
  • Security – how to securely manage data
  • Transparency – collecting and aggregating pricing data to help consumers make intelligent decisions
  • User experience – creating user journeys and user interfaces to improve the overall consumer experience (perhaps changing the model like Uber (a Google Ventures investment))

Do those things sound like the competencies of any one company?  To me, they all sound like things that Google is good maybe even great at.  Additionally, the founders of Google have the big, picture and long-term vision that’s critical in healthcare.  Driving change in healthcare isn’t about meeting specific quarterly numbers.  It’s about seeing the world in a new light where you want to drive change and improve things like childhood obesity.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  

I wish I knew more about Google.  Someday, I’d love to work with them on some of these opportunities.  If so, I could see this being a perfect fit in the Google X world.  I could see them making a change as a core focus, as investors, or simply by creating enabling tools.  But, at the end of the day, this is why I think health needs Google to have a focus here.  It’s almost 20% of our GDP and something that impacts most people on a daily basis.  

Hidden Gem at WHCC 2008

For those of you missing the World Health Care Congress 2008 in DC, you are missing a good meeting.  It has lots of networking opportunities, good speakers, lots of company booths, and good content.  I have been here and trying to run between presentations, meetings, and interviews.

I went to a presentation yesterday on PHRs (personal health records) which is a hot topic here.  I think the presentation by Jan Oldenburg (Practice Leader, Health Content, Internet Services Group, Kaiser Permanente) could be the the hidden gem of the conference.  I know a lot of people will immediately discount it for being part of an IDS (integrated delivery system) but don’t.  There is a lot to learn here.

Some of the key things include:

  • Integration of the PHR and EMR.  [Their EMR is from Epic.]
  • A focus on four key attributes – transparency, accessibility, consistency, and security.
  • Four major components: record of information (lab values, visits, notes), an interaction tool (e-mail your physician, HRA), transaction engine (refills), and links to health content.

They have an amazing 2M members on the PHR with over 60% who signed in and used the tool more than 5 times in 2007.  [They probably deserve an award just for this ability to create a sticky application.]  And, 16% signed in more than 12 times.  […which is probably all of their chronic patients with co-morbities.]

Jan talked about their promotion of the site which includes all of their materials, registration drives, and even physicians giving out cards promoting the site.  She talked about making meaningful improvements like moving from mailing out the password to the patient to instant password set-up using a similar algorythm to what banks use.  (This improved their activation to 88% over the past 2 months.  They used to lose 30% between password request and actual registration.)

And, it sounds like they have taken a very thoughtful approach to the application:

  • She spoke about the fact that they had over 3.6M e-mail exchanges between MDs and patients in 2007.  Originally, they didn’t pay MDs for e-mails since it was like returning phone calls.  But, they are looking for how to distinguish between an e-visit and an e-mail.

“E-mail helps me take better care of myself” [a quote from a patient]

  • In a published study, they showed that patients using e-mail had 7-10% less visits and 14% less use of the phone for support.  [very impressive]  But…to George Halvorson’s point on day one, this is a perfect example of misaligned incentives.  The MD uses e-mail to improve health and patient satisfaction but makes less revenue.
  • They addressed one not so obvious issue which is timing of data being released.  For sensitive lab values, they are either delayed so the physician sees it first or its only released after the physician approves it.  The key is that the physicians don’t want the patients to see the data before they get a chance to call them.
  • The patient can take an HRA (health risk assessment) and decide whether or not to share it.
  • They have some impressive statistics around changing behavior:
    • 55% lost weight
    • 58% decreased stress
    • 78% had better pain management
  • They are just beginning to analyze who the users are (e.g., chronic patients, acute patients, family).  This was a question in every PHR meeting yesterday.
  • Some of their key learnings included:
    • Information has to be timely and current
    • You have to create “in the moment” opportunities to act (i.e., e-mail your provider)
    • You have to create teachable moments
    • You have to meet members where they live
    • You have to heal the fractures of our healthcare system

“Patients who use the PHR are 65% more likely to stay with Kaiser when they have a choice of plan options.”  [WOW!  Talk about a case for adoption.]

  • They were one of the first ones that I heard talk about working with portability standards to move data from PHR to PHR and to a DTC model (i.e., Google, Microsoft).
  • The final point which was similar to what I discussed with ActiveHealth was around genomics.  Jan talked about some of the analysis they were doing thinking out years in the future about how that data could influence generations.

This is certainly worth following and looking at as a model.  Some of the things are easier because of their model (e.g., getting MDs to use e-mail and promote the web), BUT somethings are lessons that can be leveraged.

Data + Rules + Transportable = ActiveHealth PHR

I had the chance yesterday to sit down with Nita Stella (SVP of Product Management at ActiveHealth) and talk about their PHR.  It was a helpful meeting given that I spent much of today in PHR discussions.  Some of my takeaways were:

  1. You have to have a PHR which pulls in your claims data.
  2. You need to have rules which use the data to drive specific actions.
  3. The PHR has to be transportable.

ActiveHealth has two ways that the PHR is offered: (1) through your payor and (2) direct-to-consumer (launching next week).  This works great if you originally get it through your payor and have your claims data pulled in.  Then, even if you leave, you can take the data with you.  Additionally, they are linked to HealthVault (Microsoft offering) which should help address some of the transportable issues.

Their key offering has been about using an evidence-based approach to drive decisioning using business rules so from what I know this is a key component of their offering (see more on Care Engine).

We talked a little about size and utilization.  Some of the statistics that I wrote down were:

  • They have 6M eligible users (i.e., provided through their payor).
  • Average use is 40% (i.e., meaning that they register and sign-in).
  • Use ranges from 10% – 75% with the top client using incentives to drive adoption.
  • Based on some initial data, they are getting 1.7 visits on average.
  • Most of the repeat visits are due to an e-mail being triggered to let the patient know of some care alert.  [Since e-mail is not secure and you can’t send PHI (protected health information), I wonder how much more effective this would be using a different medium that included personalized information.]

She gave me a tour of the application which has a nice GUI (graphical user interface).  I liked the fact that that alerts and reminders were at the top of the page when you logged in and prompted you for an action.  Additionally, so you couldn’t just defer the action, it asks you for a reason if you choose to ignore it.  [That would be interesting data to see and track.  Why do consumers ignore opportunities and how does that vary by segment.]

I asked her what they were doing about using genetic markers and pulling in data from companies like 23andMe.   [A topic that came up in several PHR presentations today.]  She mentioned that they were talking with Rand about this and thinking through it.

The final point that I took away was that in using their business rules they are focused on pulling out the alerts and/or reminders where they have more than one marker to indicate a possibility (to eliminate false positives).

Obviously, the key to all of this is getting consumers engaged; keeping them engaged; and making the application valuable in ways that they want to use it.  A challenge for everyone in the space.

%d bloggers like this: