Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Package Deal, Part 2

In Part 1, we met MaryAnn Stump, RN, Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. She’s the brains behind the company’s foray into the world of transparency. This time out, we’ll learn how the program evolved, and how it’s designed to work.
Once again, I’d like to thank IB reader John Fembup for his time and expertise in helping to craft the questions for this interview.
I asked MaryAnn to describe the role of Chief Innovation Officer, and what that has to do with transparency. She explained that, when she first came to BX (some 16 years ago), she began to look for what she calls “shared quality measurement” that is, how to accurately gauge how health care is delivered and received. She eventually became the person responsible for MN BX’s own employee benefit plan, which gave her a unique perspective, and opportunity. Now she could see the employer’s (customer’s) side of the equation, not just the insurer’s. She wanted to know what other customers were saying, and how they perceived the job BX (and other carriers) was doing.
Listening to the purchaser.” Now there’s a nifty idea. Ms Stump began to look for appropriate tools that would solve what she saw as unmet needs: employers want to know what goes on in their plans besides just premiums and benefits, but don’t know what questions need to be asked. Not being a “fan of report cards,” MaryAnn began to look around for ways to answer those questions without having to be asked. Pieces like end of life needs, for example, which employers rarely consider, but of course impact claims, and thus premiums. Pain management is another area where HealthcareFacts offers helpful information.
But how did she come up with such a unique – and useful – format? As with so many new ideas, this one was an accident: she was eating a candy bar one day (a $100,000 Bar?), and the answer “stared (her) in the face.” The Nutrition Facts info on the wrapper told her all she needed to know about the benefits (heh) of the product, how many calories, and the like. Why couldn’t health care offer that kind of information, in a timely and easily understood format?
MaryAn told me that she considers her first “success metric” to have been the fact that so many providers signed onto the program. For example, the world-famous Mayo Clinic has never participated in any transparency effort, but they signed off on HealthcareFacts. Similar facilities in West Virginia and Louisiana have also joined in. They’re just now starting to track hits on the HF website, so it’s not clear what kind of consumer response they’re getting at this point. The other challenge, of course, is getting the message itself out; marketing efforts (such as contacting blogs) seems to me a step in the right direction. And making the folks behind the curtain accessible goes a long way toward developing and reinforcing credibility.
A few final thoughts in Part 3 (coming soon).
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