Moving Beyond the Sick Care Model

How does a corporate behemoth heavily invested in the transaction-based health care system of today make the shift to engaging with its 20 million+ customers about their health in new and deeper ways? Humana’s new CEO Bruce Broussard sees technology as key to successfully meeting this challenge.

The company does a good part of its $39 million annual business in one of the health system’s status quo areas: providing medical benefit plans to employer groups.

In his October 1st keynote at the Seventh Annual Health 2.0 2013 Fall Conference, Broussard will share some thoughts from the executive suite about the role Humana envisions for itself as part of health care’s future. Health 2.0 co-founder Matthew Holt recently chatted with Broussard about Humana’s plans.

Matthew Holt: Humana has been looking to get involved in the new changes in health care as a whole. I know you’ve been surveying the role of new information technologies and tools in recent months.

What kinds of things are you seeing? What has most surprised you about the possibilities?

Bruce Broussard: The informational tools that are coming out are pretty powerful. I’d categorize them as allowing individuals and companies like Humana to educate and motivate individuals, and to gain easier access to providers and to more timely treatments.

When we look at the new tools coming out, I think these are going to greatly improve health care in multiple ways.

MH: Certainly one thing that any company running a big health plan like Humana is involved with these days is the Affordable Care Act with all of its ramifications and changes. Between the exchanges, new regulations, and new relationships with provider organizations, what do you think is the biggest contribution a health plan and health insurance company can make in this new world?

BB: There is all kinds of motivation now to move from a traditional insurance product to a health product. Because of we have had the opportunity over the years to see our members’ complete health needs, we see our role as transitioning into helping them with their health needs as opposed to just financing the access to sick care.

MH: Over the years, Humana has done a fair amount in direct creation of your own information technology infrastructure. I know before you became CEO there was a lot of work being done in the areas of gaming and chronic care, for example.

What can you tell us about the focus of your internal strategy now? Secondly, since our audience at Health 2.0 is small organizations and technology companies who are interested in figuring out how to work with established health care players, what are you looking at in terms of external relationships?

BB: First, to put in context what technology means to us, our strategy wraps around the integrated delivery model. That has three parts to it. One is how can we help care delivery transform around reimbursement, quality, and cost. Secondly, how can we engage with the consumer? That’s all enabled by technology: data analytics and other technology components.

We have been building internally but also partnering externally in developing our capabilities in these areas. There is so much innovation going in the health care world around social communities, around personal devices, around engaging with providers. As much as building internally, we see opportunities to partner externally to bring these into our platform and allow our members to have access to these great innovations.

MH: Is that something you’re already on the path to doing and will be doing more of, especially since many of your competitors have already opened up some pretty innovative platforms?

BB:I think you’re going to see us do more and have a platform that has more capabilities and standards to reach out to more innovative companies.

MH: If I gave you a magic wand for the one big problem you most want to fix in health care, what is it and how much of your actual efforts in Humana are going toward that problem?

BB: To answer your question really starts with why did I come to Humana and the answer is I wanted to make an impact in health care. I think one of the biggest areas to make an impact is around cost and the experience.

How do we help lower the cost of health care and at the same time improve the experience of both members and patients in the system as a whole?

How we look at this is through our dream of life-long wellbeing. We believe you can’t affect the cost of health care by only focusing on sick care. You must focus on health. Assisting people get healthier at whatever stage they are in their journey of health is where we want to be.