I’ll be attending the World Health Care Congress (WHCC) here in Washington DC getting my fill of all things healthcare and most likely an overdose on policy – after all, this is Washington.
The people who put on the WHCC have put together quite an impressive agenda with so many different and what look to be interesting tracks, the biggest challenge for me was just deciding which ones to attend. In the end have chosen to focus on those tracks focused on consumer health including transparency, successful models for engagement, empowerment and the like. Over the course of the next couple of days, I’ll provide a couple posts outlining some of the most critical issues raised and lessons learned from the various presenters and participants. So stay tuned.
As an aside, had two interesting experiences yesterday, here in DC hainvg arrived a day early. The first was meeting a man on the DC Metro who had flown in to attend a training session. We got to talking and he asked me what I did for a living. Told him healthcare and he immediately opened up with: “Healthcare costs and gas prices are going to drive us into the ground.” As we continued talking he related his own, most recent experiences with the healthcare system.
He receives good coverage from his employer, though complained about his share of costs continuing to rise. He has had a heart condition ever since he was a child. Recently, he changed primary care physicians. Despite a long record of a heart condition, his new doctor ordered a battery of tests that he estimates cost between $30-40,000. Though he readily admitted that his costs were a few hundred dollars, he knew that in the end, we all will be paying higher prices to support such practices, that for him seemed at a sham. He also found the multiple Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) forms that he received from the insurer during this whole process as to appear as though they were written in Greek – simply incomprehensible.
Now, I am not a doctor and certainly not one to judge whether or not these tests were unnecessary. What this story does point out though are two important points:
- Might this consumer, if he had control of his records that were safe-guarded in one of the online data repositories like HealthVault, or Google Health, or even Dossia (if his employer was a member), be able to provide a complete longitudinal health record, maybe the physician would have decided not to order these tests.
- With all the talk from insurers about transparency, consumer empowerment and all the wonderful online tools that they want to provide to enable such, from this story it looks like they are getting a little ahead of themselves. Rather than looking to the Internet and IT as the magic elixir to make all this happen, maybe insurers might want to start with something as simple and basic as making EOBs understandable. Granted, not novel, nor sexy, but it may deliver better results.
The second little musing is that while heading over to the Hirshhorn Museum (my favorite here in DC, great sculpture garden and fabulous modern art) coming out of the Metro and what should I see plastered on the walls – at least 8 small billboard posters with that big smiling face of Magic Johnson saying something to the affect of “Together we will better manage our health.”
These are part of Aetna’s consumer advertising campaign to encourage greater consumer involvement in managing their health. Really like this advertising campaign (seen full page ads in the WSJ as well). As far as I can tell, they are the only major insurer being proactive on educating the consumer. Now if we could just get the other big insurers (are you listening WellPoint, Cigna, UnitedHealth, etc.) to ramp-up their own consumer advertising to focus on a similar message, we may indeed begin to see consumers take a more proactive role.