The latest occurrences on the health plan innovation front seem to include the use of extensive web portals and online tools. These trends are recapped today in an article posted on AIS’s Health Business Daily website.
In the article, Steve Davis points out that, earlier this month, UnitedHealth Group became the first health plan to fully launch itself into the increasingly crowded field of online health content, personal health records (PHRs) and e-commerce. †Steve notes that on that same day, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts said a new partnership with Google Health would allow its members to import claims-based health information into a PHR. And, finally, he notes that last month, Aetna Inc. said it would give members access to Microsoft Corp.’s HealthVault PHR.
Davis writes that these announcements show a trend among health plans to capitalize on a population that increasingly relies on the Internet for health information, and an expectation that consumers will want to store their health data electronically.
Quoting Michael Solomon, who is an affiliated consultant at Point-of-Care Partners, a Florida-based firm that specializes in e-prescribing and electronic health records (EHRs): “Employers will increasingly demand that health plans…provide tools to help their employees manage their health” he tells HPW. “As more consumers move into consumer-directed and individual health insurance policies, health plans will be faced with an imperative to foster loyalty with their members and help them stay well.” He points to Aetna, which he says is “aggressively promoting” a health portal and PHR to its members through its ActiveHealth Management subsidiary.
However positive these trends appear to be, there are some potential drawbacks. For example, Davis delves into the question of what happens if pharmaceutical companies buy advertising space on the web portal. Also, with respect to the PHRs, he notes that they currently suffer from a lack of interoperability and portability standards meaning that insurers and other stakeholders will need to address differences in formats, content and other technical issues that are obstacles to interoperability and widespread acceptance.
Health Plan Innovation Take: Yes, there are still a number of issues to be worked out before health care can become paperless, but the rewards can be enormous. Just this week, the Congressional Budget Office said that the only healthcare reform plans that are capable of offering reasonable savings relative to their cost are the health IT plans.