Podcast: 2016 Wellness Trends with Arthur Lane
In this episode of the Well-being Experts podcast, we’re discussing 2016 trends, including the wealth of data generated by wearables and other connected devices. We sat down with Arthur Lane, Vice President of Marketing and Product Development at Onlife Health, to talk about the prevalence of user data and its impact on a wide range of topics, from incentives and coaching, to reporting and the user experience. You'll also hear him talk about other aspects of consumer expectations and how they are influencing the design of wellness programs.
“If I enter the storefront and I have no idea what I'm looking for, but I'm sent here by my health plan or my employer to do something: I can't find it, I get frustrated, I leave. If I'm incented to go there – they pay me to go there – I do the one task and I have a still bad UI, I do my one task and I leave. Which is horrible.”
Want to dive deeper into this Well-Being Experts podcast? Here's the full transcript from our discussion with Arthur Lane, Vice President of Marketing and Product Development at Onlife Health.
Arthur: Data is still pretty much still siloed but it's getting better. And we have access to more data that we've ever had before at any time. It seems to multiply exponentially, monthly now, the amount of data that we can look at. What's changing, though, is making meaning out of that data. So how do you apply mathematics to that data, statistics, analyze it and then use prediction?
Host: That's Arthur Lane, Vice President of Marketing and Product at Onlife Health. He's talking about the wealth of data generated by wearables and other connected devices. This is the Well-Being Experts podcast. And you might recognize a common theme from our previous episode with Catherine Bass.
Catherine: We are creating more data in one year these days, with our devices, than we've created in a lifetime.
Host: On this episode of the Well-Being Experts podcast, brought to you by Onlife Health, we're discussing 2016 trends, including the prevalence of user data and its impact on a wide range of topics, from incentives to coaching and reporting, even our understanding of the user experience.
Arthur: If I walk into a retail store and I'm looking to buy something and I can't find it within the first ten minutes of looking around and there's no one around to help me, the likelihood of me buying something there is very slim. The same thing can be said for a mobile or web experience. It's a storefront. If I enter the storefront and I have no idea what I'm looking for, but I'm sent here by my health plan or my employer to do something: I can't find it, I get frustrated, I leave. If I'm incented to go there – they pay me to go there – I do the one task and I have a still bad UI, I do my one task and I leave. Which is horrible.
Host: You'll also hear him talking about other aspects of consumer expectations and how they are influencing the design of wellness programs.
For more content like go to onlifehealth.com/resources. Enjoy the conversation!
Host: What have been some of the biggest trends that you have seen in the previous year? Then we'll talk about where that is leading us into this year.
Arthur: Yeah, if you look the industry right now, I think some just overall industry trends, more transparency, more consumerism, it's kind of that transparent consumerism time of the cycle. So if you look even further back, we went from the Internet, to mobile, to all of these cool technologies, and then we were like, “Well, shouldn't we personalize that and think more about the user, the consumer?” And really what that meant over the year for some companies was a deep look at their user experience, and how people interact with that user experience, which then led to some revamping or revitalizing of their mobile apps and portals, to boost that experience. With the inside mind of saying, “That is my storefront,” to the user. And that user experience makes me closer to consumerism. Healthcare really wants to move from where they're at today to a more consumer approach, and that's a future trend.
Host: Where do you think that desire is coming from, for users to have the best experience possible, and having that expectation within a healthcare approach?
Arthur: There's a couple levers or forces that are happening behind the scenes that make that relevant. The first one is, when you look at the Affordable Care Act, that's driving a lot of it. So we created exchanges, the federal exchange, where people could buy individual policies. So that's the retailization of healthcare, the first step. Over that time also you've seen the development of private exchanges, and a private exchange is just not government backed, it's for private insurance. So if you worked at a company, your company could take part in an exchange, usually offered by some type of benefits broker, to buy insurance. So again that's kind of a privatization of the public exchange to make it more consumer-centric. That's one thing behind the scene.
The other thing behind the scene is that you're taking on individuals, and you're taking on levels of risk that are kind of unknown, so as a health insurer, from their point of view, they've got to deal with that risk. And they've got to provide you tools to help you manage your healthcare, whether that be your healthcare finance, or your health and well-being itself. So those tools are out there, and you've seen that over this year.
Price transparency, again – big – because they want to help you manage your health finance. “Choose me because I have transparent prices,” et cetera. The other part of it was they took on all this risk by putting individuals into the federal exchange whom they knew nothing about, so they mostly got older, sicker people, and because of that, they have to provide them tools to help them manage their health and well-being so that they don't have these huge costs. When you see all of the news around health insurers losing money on the federal exchange, it's because they didn't anticipate the levels of risk they took on. They took on a sicker population than they expected.
Host: If we rewind back a little bit, let's just look at the previous year. What do you think have been some of the biggest things you saw last year, and how do you think that translates into what is on the horizon for wellness plans this year?
Arthur: I really saw a lot of investment, a lot of dollars flowing into wellness solutions this past year, more than I've seen in the previous years, which is a good sign. Most of those dollars were put into technology to enable them to scale their businesses more and make it more personalized, specifically driven into the portals and the mobile applications that wellness companies offer, to interact with the members, to boost engagement – and engagement means use, to get members to use the tools. So they're working on that member experience, so driving a lot of dollars in that. On the other side of it, they're also driving a lot of dollars into marketing. It's a very competitive market, and also marketing and advertising, you see a lot of big dollars flowing in there. So you go to a trade show, you see a new competitor's got a 20 by 20 booth, guess what? They've spent a lot of money on marketing.
Host: So from that approach with the technology investment, we've had some dialogue so far on this series about wearables and how that has made an impact on the industry. How do you anticipate that to continue to grow with the trends that you're anticipating?
Arthur: We're at kind of a tipping point. We've got enough wearables and they are probably at an affordable enough price that we can leverage them. If you take for instance the vendor that we use to help manage the wearable device ecosystems so we can get data off of “Bringing Your Own Device,” bring your own Fitbit, bring your Body Band, Nike FuelBand, it doesn't matter, just bring it and we'll hook it up. When they're in our systems, we're able to look at that data and make some inference like, “You should take your 5,000 steps today.” “Why?” “Because it's going to make you healthier.” If you're not taking your 5,000 steps, what do we do? Do we incent you to take 5,000 steps per day? Do we send you a nudge? Do we send you tools so that you can challenge other people with the end goal that you're taking at least 5,000 to 10,000 a day? So that wearable data is becoming actionable now. It's not just, “I walked 5,000 steps, I ran 5 miles, I got so much sleep or whatever.” It's that data is now being actionable.
Well-Being Experts is sponsored by Onlife Health. Onlife Health is a comprehensive wellness provider serving health plans and large employers nationwide. With 20 years of industry experience and over 10 million members, Onlife knows how to drive the ongoing engagement needed to create real results. Find out more at onlifehealth.com.
Host: Alright, back to the interview with Arthur. You mentioned data just a moment ago, and the role of data with wearables, and other data that you're able to capture now – you might not have been able to capture as meaningful data in the past. How are you anticipating the role of data truly shaping the interaction between the members, the employer, the health plans? How is that adding value to everything?
Arthur: The data is pretty much still siloed, but it's getting better, and we have access to more data than we've ever had before at any time. It seems to multiply exponentially, monthly now, the amount of data we can look at. What's changing, though, is making meaning out of that data. So how do you apply mathematics to that data, statistics, analyze it, and then use prediction on that data to say, “Who should I be interacting with?” Then, that can be scaled out in a predictive model that says, “This group of people has a high potential for an event. This person has the highest potential for an event. I should reach out to that person first,” and rank order the entire population to do that. That's one use of the data.
The other use of the data is to help motivate a person. I can look for trends or patterns in that data and hook it up with a persona about a group of people and say, “This group of people likes these type of activities, or this type of data, or this type of content,” and I can serve it up to them in a very personal manner using data. So there’s all kinds of uses for data. It will only get bigger. We’re a connected society, and we’ll only get better because we are developing the tools that make it easier, and easier, and easier to get at that data, and make sense of it.
Host: I like that. With more data accessible and available, do you anticipate any challenges that that will create?
Arthur: Yeah, there's big privacy challenges. Think about genetic information, and what that could mean. As a person do you want your genetic information used? And if you do –
Host: And who knows how it's going to be used? Right?
Arthur: You don't know. Once it's in the system, it's in the system. People can steal that. And so there's security issues around it, there's personal privacy issues around it, so those are the challenges. There's also challenges of the way that you interpret the data, whether that be right or wrong. So a false positive. A false negative. You've got to be really careful when you're looking at that data.
Let's say I was running a, maybe not a wellness program, but a chronic disease management program, and I failed to identify you as a heart-failure member. A false negative, which is worse to me than a false positive. A false positive would mean I identified you as a heart-failure patient and you didn't have it. Let's say I just missed it. I didn't pick you up. And you had an event. And it was tragic. I could've interacted with you and prevented that, if I didn't have that false negative. So the tools that you have to use have to be verifiable, have to be tested. Tried and true. You just can't create these in your garage and put them out on the public. So I think unregulated, unmanaged uses of data in healthcare – like anything else in healthcare – we have to be careful about how we do it.
Host: Right. With users interacting and engaging with the individuals who are all a part of that, they expect a top-notch user experience now. And if that's not delivered, how drastically does it impact the use and the possible life span of that program?
Arthur: It's devastating to have a bad user experience. I think of it like a physical retail experience, right? If I walk into a retail store and I'm looking to buy something and I can't find it within the first ten minutes of looking around and there's no one around to help me, the likelihood of me buying something there is very slim. The same thing can be said for a mobile or web experience. It's a storefront. If I enter the storefront and I have no idea what I'm looking for, but I'm sent here by my health plan or my employer to do something: I can't find it, I get frustrated, I leave. If I'm incented to go there – they pay me to go there – I do the one task and I have a still bad UI, I do my one task and I leave. Which is horrible for the type of solutions that we have. That's a big challenge. I need to improve that experience all the time.
Host: When I'm searching for a provider there's plenty of options. Looking into this year and the future years, what do you think is the shift and what is increasingly important to put value on?
Arthur: The buyers of these services, looking at the future trends of what's going to be important. I don't think that you can compete in this marketplace without having at a minimum:
a really good member portal
incentives engine to drive the behavior changes
connected devices to do activity
coaching to help do that behavior change
reporting on the backside that allows the health plan or the customer to ingest the data that is driven out of your program into their systems and intermingle it with their data.
Host: It's the relationship between incentives engine, connected devices, coaching, reporting. Do you think there would be anything else that's added to the mix to that?
Arthur: Yeah, the wild cards on the table that would pop up. Mobile applications pop up more and more. It's almost table stakes, but really good mobile applications are what people are looking for. “Can I complete my health assessment on a mobile device?” is a wild card on the table. Not everybody can do that right now, but it's getting to where almost everybody can. That'll be a big trend. They will ask for more and more integration, the buyer, with other programs. So, “How does wellness integrate with my current disease management program or case management programs? Can we pass data back and forth so we can have a quasi-total population health management model?” That's a really good one on the table. I also think that the wellness company helping the payer or the health plan with their self-funded business to help them sell in the marketplace and differentiate their products from their competitors' products is also a good trend that's happening right now, too.
Host: How do you see that going with the wellness provider and the health plan?
Arthur: The health plan has two sides of their business: the risk side, which is just general insurance that the employer is taking all the healthcare cost that they would incur and the health plan is assuming the risk on that. So they're managing that, they can do anything they want. On the other side of the business is what they call self-funded or ASO business. That ASO business is big, big companies, who take on their own healthcare risk and pay those healthcare costs. The health plan is just churning through the claims. That is high-dollar business, there's no risk associated, so you want to have that business as a health plan. But, you have to differentiate yourself amongst the competitors. Are you going to be a low cost? Are you going to be a high cost with lots of bells and whistles? What kind of package are you going to offer on the [exchange] marketplace? Wellness is an added value, a buy-up is what they would call it, to add on to the programs that helps them differentiate themselves in the marketplace. I see wellness providers of that service partnering with the health plan to sell through to that side of the business, to help sales and account management inside the health plan maintain and gain more business.
Host: I would really be curious to hear, what do you think the strategic road map, the future road map, looks like as you're thinking about, not just the physical wellness but the emotional wellness, the wellness you have in the way you are doing your work, all the pieces that make the person who they are and how they live?
Arthur: There's a few discrete buckets that we expand wellness out today. So, today we're at the current core, if we looked at core wellness, is around managing your diet, fitness and exercise and helping you quit some of the bad habits that you might have, smoking or eating too much. In the future it's health and well-being for the whole individual. So it's not just your physical, it's your mental well-being, first off. How do I manage your stress, anxiety, your general mental well-being?
The next bucket that you would go to is financial stress. So how are you doing with your finances because that influences your entire health and well-being. If you're stressed out because you have poor financial management skills, how do we help you with that? What kind of tools can we provide you or content can we provide you to get you literate in managing your financial wellness? Those are the two big buckets.
The third bucket, and the last tail of that, is how do I get people who aren't full-blown chronic disease members, say full-blown diabetes or full-blown heart disease, how do I find them before they get there, before they're pre-chronic? So, how do I get a pre-diabetic and how do I interact with them and educate them before they become full-blown diabetic? So I can stave that whole trend off. So in those three buckets is the basic future strategic road map for wellness.
Host: Stress, financials, preventing chronic disease. Those are big things.
Host: How do you navigate trying to prioritizing, and also how they complement with each other, once you're able to help knock out financial stress? How does that play an impact on the other ones?
Arthur: It's a market-driven approach. The low-hanging fruit always is the solution that will deliver the nearest-term return to the member or person buying the service. So that's the one you should roll out first – the most relevant to the user, and the most relevant to the person who's buying it. To me, the first bucket is actually reverse order of what we talked about. So, the first bucket is easier for the wellness company, because they have most of their data with their health plan partner, to find the people who have pre-chronic conditions, and the programs to develop around managing those people exist already in evidence-based medicine. So those are easy for us to do. So I'd call that really close to our core competency across the industry.
A deviation outside of that would be the next one, which would be the stress, or the mental aspect of it. We have abilities to coach you. We just don't have the core competency of a mental health expert, so I don't have a lot of psychologists sitting around on the team or sociologists who can look at the data and find trends from a psychosocial aspect of it. But again, it's close enough. I'd call it one deviation away. And you would do a build, buy, or partner on that, and you would look to partner with the health plan and some of their vendors to help you do that type of service, and deliver it to the end user.
The last bucket's probably a little bit further out from all of our core competencies, which is the financial side of it. Because that's a little bit risky, you would most likely vend that solution. Others have done this in the industry already, some of our competitors have partners in the financial side to help people manage their financial health and well-being.
Host: We've talked a little about data and how that is an increasing role now, so when you are thinking about the data you already have, what are some of the things that you've been reflecting on, the current data that you are sitting on, that you know about, how do you think that will be impacting the future?
Arthur: I think from our perspective, we have decades of data and we're increasing the amount of data that we collect exponentially every year. You know many terabytes of data are stored in our systems, which is quite a bit. I think that we're using, initially, that data to help make our programs more efficient. And efficient in the means of engagement. So I can use that data more efficiently now to make personas about you. I've got enough data to say, “You look this way, you fit in this bucket. Bucket A is people with this archetype, with these traits.” I can now make it, maybe not down to the individual level of personalization, but at least at a persona leveI. I have that data today. With my health plan partners, I can also take the data I have today and mingle it with their data because we have cloud-based tools now. I can take my personas and their personas and match them up, and have even a sharper lens on that person. I can go maybe from a large group level down to another segmentation down and get even more personal. Still not all the way down to the personal, personal level, but close enough.
Host: To do that scale, to be able to do that.
Arthur: To do it at scale. We wouldn't have been able to do that, well, we could have done it ten years ago, but it would have cost us such an extreme amount of capital that we wouldn't be able to make it back up in any way that we charge for that product.
Today's podcast and additional perspectives from Well-Being Experts can be found at onlifehealth.com/resources. We welcome any comments, questions, feedback, anything at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.