Post-Palooza News: RWJF Challenge Update

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 7.56.39 AMAt Health Datapalooza, we heard plenty about the importance of addressing the myriad information needs health care consumers have – when choosing plans and providers, receiving care, or trying to become more engaged in their own health.  Therefore it seems fitting to follow the ‘palooza with an update on this year’s RWJF challenge program and introduce the next for 2017. 

Although we know that consumers have many unmet information needs in the healthcare setting, our apps challenge program, which is administered by Health 2.0, has consciously focused on supporting decisions around plan choice. Our first two challenges focused on some critically important tools:  cost calculators  and provider directories.  Use of both types have soared during the third open enrollment period, and the tools of our winner, finalists, and many others have become widely used. Some have even been linked to state exchanges or healthcare.gov.

For our third challenge, we stayed with the topic of provider search, but took a slightly more ambitious path. Rather than allowing consumers to find specific known providers, this challenge aims to help consumers search for providers that are right for them.  Co-sponsored with ProPublica, the “Finding the Right Provider Challenge” aims to help consumers customize their searches based on their priorities.

Today I am pleased to announce our finalists:

Opera Solutions
Your Health Sherpa – DocFinder Sherpa
Locust Tech Inc.
Consumers’ Checkbook 

Finalists will submit their finished products by August 12, 2016. The judging panel will announce the winners sometime in September 2016.

This is also an opportune time to announce the kick-off of our newest challenge, which focuses on coverage and cost issues related to prescription drugs.  Access to and affordability of prescription drugs are extremely important elements of plan choice for many consumers, particularly for those who may suffer from chronic conditions. The information about drug coverage and costs that consumers need to make decisions is complex. Plans vary considerably in which drugs are covered, at what cost, and may also have other policies that  affect access (e.g.  step therapy). The increasing use of co-insurance, which requires consumers to pay a certain percent of the total cost, makes information about market prices essential to comparing the drug costs of different plans. Some plans have separate deductibles, both medical and drug, which further complicate cost comparisons.

For all these reasons, we believe that a challenge on drug coverage and cost is long overdue. We are collaborating with Vericred in this challenge, and they will make their formulary API available to entrants. 

While the solution we seek is primarily designed to address access and affordability concerns, we hope developers will consider addressing other important gaps in the information needs of consumers with respect to prescription drugs. We still lack a simple widely known information source for Rx drugs where consumers can get objective information about effectiveness and value. Adding such an informational resource to a solution can only enhance its usefulness to consumers and other insurance markets.

First round submissions are due on August 14, 2016. Developers can learn more about the challenge at the at RxCostandCoverageChallenge.com.  The collaborators will hold an introductory webinar on x date. We hope to see you there!

Katherine Hempstead is a senior advisor to the vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


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