Notes from the New Product Innovation, Design & Development for Health Plans Conference

This week I am in Chicago attending a conference called New Product Innovation, Design & Development for Health Plans. It is being billed as “The Most Comprehensive Conference with Key Thought Leaders from Commercial Group, Individual/Retail & Medicare Markets.” The conference has attracted about 100 health plan product development specialists from all over the country.

The meeting kicked off on Wednesday morning with a banker addressing the attendees. Shane A. Johnson Vice President, Innovation & Product Excellence at Bank of America examined the macroeconomic shifts at play in the world that drove Bank of America towards innovation as a company. Johnson talked about the tools used by B of A to drive innovation such as ethnography, prototyping, the use of Cx (Customer Experience) models, product management and pricing excellence.

Johnson said that the most important ingredient for encouraging innovation within an organization is inclusiveness – allowing good ideas to bubble into the ideation process from any source.

Next up was Bob Wadsworth, VP, Product Development at Blue Shield of California. Bob told how his company has invested years of planning to build an infrastructure for a future online, real-time selling and quoting interface, allowing consumers to build tailor-made health insurance products. In other words, they have developed a modular product approach that allows customers to build health plans in the same way that consumers can build a Dell computer online or order a latte at Starbucks (e.g. a tall, skinny, vanilla, latte).

This is a big step forward in the ability of a carrier to provide employers and even individuals with a health plan that is really tailored to meet their unique needs and only pay for the level of coverage that they want.

Wadsworth described how this innovation has taken his group years to implement and how his team had to overcome doubters at almost every turn including executives, actuaries, legal and compliance, and state regulators.
Health Plan Innovation’s Take: It is encouraging to see so many product development specialists gathering here at this busy time of year for health plan employees to explore ways that they can improve on the products that they provide. Some even attended a series of workshops held on Tuesday designed to help them become more creative in the way they think about product design possibilities. Best of all it seems that these professionals are all looking for ways to lower health care costs while providing the means to finance quality health care.

More to come…

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