Employers, payers jump onto Health 2.0 bandwagon

By Patty Enrado
10:34 AM

They might be late to the Health 2.0 party, they said. However, a panel of employers and healthcare insurers at the Health 2.0 conference on Monday made it clear they are ready to play.

Mark Bertolini, chairman, CEO and president of Aetna, described his company as “an evolving technology services company with a big insurance vehicle” and a CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) Level 3 shop. In the last decade, the company has been investing in research and developing its service-oriented architecture. Its recent $6 billion health IT acquisitions – including Medicity – and development of new applications are aligned with its strategy to “make systems simpler to use.”

For employers and payers, the company has developed a platform that enables seamless services such as quotes, registration and identification. “We’re making access to the system easier,” Bertolini said. For large employers with more than 1,000 employees, Aetna sells its technical services for disease management or fraud and abuse detection, for example, and relies on its ease of use to drive its “lock-in” strategy with its customers.

Aetna is launching its consumer platform in the spring. Designed to “fit healthcare in their lives,” the platform delivers interactive applications supplied by external applications development partners and made available through its healthcare app store iNexx, Medicity’s new Health 4.0 platform.

The company gave five physicians a free app on a health information exchange in Michigan four months ago. The app went viral, and today, 250 physicians are using it for referrals and messages, Bertolini said. “If they find it useful, they will use it and share it across the network,” he said.

Louis Burns, CEO of Care Innovations, explained that the Intel-GE joint venture was formed to address the need for and take advantage of the alliance of the two companies’ complementary products. With the mandate by both companies to “drive the bus like we stole it,” Care Innovations “takes the best of R&D and combines a wicked sense of curiosity” and puts capabilities in the hands of people who have acute health needs, he said. The company’s health insurance customers deploy its virtual care coordination platform.

After a bumpy beginning and a major reset with its employers and customers, Dossia has emerged this year with a focus on health management and engagement, said Jim Hansen, vice president and executive director. The company has developed a set of tools that pushes out data from the longitudinal patient record via a dynamic user interface and makes that information more useful to patients. “We’re looking for best innovators to put apps in the Dossia Health Management,” Hansen pitched. He expects the apps to be either fully covered by the consumer, employer or somewhere in-between the two.

Castlight Health, which was co-founded by Todd Park – now CTO for the Department of Health and Human Services – and CEO Giovanni Colella, launched eight months ago to provide transparency for healthcare costs to employers and their employees. With Safeway as one of its first customers, Castlight Health is “on a mission to create free-market transparency,” Colella said.

Physician collaboration

George Halvorson, CEO of Kaiser Permanente, said his company was able to innovate within its four walls because it engaged and collaborated with its physicians on the development and implementation of its EHR system. The integrated delivery network has since created an e-medical library, which holds every medical research article and recommended protocols. This essentially creates e-support in the exam room, he said. “That functionality needs to be there,” Halvorson said.

Kaiser Permanente is one of five major health systems that have collaborated to create the Care Connectivity Consortium. The Mayo Clinic, Geisinger Health System, Group Health Cooperative, Intermountain Healthcare joins Kaiser Permanente to securely share EHR data and best practices. Formed in April 2011, the “pioneers in connectivity and collaboration” will go live in mid-21012, Halvorson said.

Employers and payers got a dose of reality from panel members Sally Luck, HR director for Hallmark Cards, and Jennifer Benz, founder and chief strategist of Benz Communications. Whereas in the past, employees didn’t have to be engaged or be aware and responsible for their healthcare choices because of a benevolent employer or payer, companies now have to educate their employees, Luck said. Now HR directors are looking for more ways and tools to engage their employee population.

Benz pointed out that HR directors’ busy schedules and competing priorities push compliance to the top and risk benefits much lower than it should be. She advised employers and payers to “make healthcare simpler.” She recommended that payers put all their best information on the Internet, outside of their firewalls; communicate year-round with social media and leverage all their resources, including providers and Health 2.0 companies.

Benz added that while there are a lot of companies ahead of the game, “Health 2.0 needs to create apps for typical companies – not just the early adopters.”