Danny Timblin, Onlife's CEO, Speaks On Panel About Consumerism In Healthcare

 

Consumerism is rapidly changing the face of healthcare. Danny Timblin, Onlife Health’s President and CEO, participated in a panel discussion during AHIP Institute 2015 and talked about how personalized solutions are helping engage today’s modern consumers and favorably impacting business objectives.

Consumerism in Healthcare Panel

Connecting with Consumers

By Danny Timblin
President and CEO, Onlife Health

Understanding how consumers connect with corporate wellness has developed into an $8 billion industry. Recently, thousands of executives including payers, providers, and employers attended AHIP Institute 2015 in Nashville to learn new ways of working together to make healthcare work. Given a framework characterized by aging employee populations, increasingly sedentary lifestyles, and rising obesity rates, executives were looking for solutions to help reverse health trends and shift more responsibility for healthcare to plan enrollees. Corporate wellness providers are playing larger roles in shaping those solutions by focusing on consumers and the business of behavior change.  

Yet, for all the talk of consumerism in today’s marketplace, until recently few wellness providers emphasized solutions built around consumers’ wants and needs in designing innovative approaches to better health. That’s changing.

Whereas ten years ago, consumerism was mostly associated with high-deductible plans and health savings accounts, today, we are succeeding at helping members stay out of the healthcare delivery system and achieving better outcomes that are real and measurable. To accomplish these goals, we are reevaluating everything we do with the end-user in mind.

Wellness Provides More Access to Care

Scheduling a visit with a primary care physician (PCP) can take 2-3 weeks to get into the doctor’s office. In the exam room, the average length of an office visit is only about 15 minutes, and studies show that patients generally get only 12 to 23 seconds to explain symptoms before the doctor interrupts or redirects the conversation.1, 2 Clearly, physicians in the traditional primary care model do not have the luxury of spending time with patients to educate and motivate them about replacing old habits with new, healthy habits.

Our members have access to wellness resources 24/7/365 and receive a combination of high-touch, personalized interventions along with the proper information, tools and incentives to educate and reinforce the types of behaviors that transform health. We have tens of thousands of success stories at the individual level as well as from our clients.

A case in point was a client of ours with rural locations across the country. While not a replacement for PCP services, we have become a primary care backstop for employees who normally have to travel 1½ to 2 hours to get to a physician’s office. For these individuals, access to care is a real issue. We analyzed the types of coaching interventions that we deliver on behalf of this client. The 45 minutes they spend with our professional health coaches each week helps employees with nutrition, weight loss, stress management, quitting tobacco, and other pre-chronic conditions. These interventions are proving very valuable to those for whom seeing a physician is a real challenge. This is a good example of how we provide consumers with the right balance of high-tech, high-touch healthcare, at the times most convenient to them and via the modalities they prefer.  

Wellness Fosters Better Engagement

Beyond access hurdles, engaging with healthcare is another barrier for consumers. We get many questions about how do we get consumers to engage with our services and keep them coming back for more? Many industries, ranging from coffee shops to casinos, are fostering consumer loyalty by continually assessing consumer preferences, tracking their behaviors, and delivering nudges, information and incentives at the right times to elicit desired behaviors.

Successful companies know that the consumer experience is the key to keeping customers engaged. Consumer loyalty these days must go beyond the concept of “edutainment.” Just putting a gadget on your wrist is not healthcare, although wearables and device integration are pieces of a holistic approach. Engagement today is about putting technology, including activity-tracking wristbands, in the hands of consumers and pairing them with complementary tools and guidance that sustain behavior change and lead to healthier, more fulfilling lives.

Wellness is Reshaping ROI

Lastly, the notion of Return on Investment, or ROI as the gold standard of program effectiveness is also shifting. The whole notion of measuring the ROI of wellness has spawned great debates about how these plans fail to stand up to rigorous methodologies of measuring the bottom line.  

While Chief Financial Officers or CFOs will always apply their assessments, we know that more and more board-room decisions about healthcare benefits are also being influenced by CMOs, health-plan Chief Medical Officers. Business leaders are realizing that wellness is not only a good thing to do; it is a true employee retention strategy. As one executive told me, “Even if the return is $.80 on the dollar, this is the right thing to do because we’ve been doing unhealthy so long.”

Return on wellness in today’s healthcare marketplace is being measured across a number of dimensions including productivity and performance, utilization, satisfaction, and outcomes – each of which benefits consumers and translates into hard-dollar returns.   

 

1 Rhoades DR, McFarland KF, Finch WH, Johnson AO. Speaking and interruptions during primary care office visits. Fam Med. 2001 Jul-Aug;33(7):528-32.

2 Marvel MK, Epstein RM, Flowers K, Beckman HB. Soliciting the patient's agenda: have we improved? JAMA. 1999;281(3):283-287.

 

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