Music City Takes on Health Care: Reflecting on AHIP Institute and Expo 2019

“_______happens here” was found in nearly every tagline for this year’s AHIP’s Institute & Expo last month. Just insert one of the following words: leadership, connections, breakthroughs, change, even cool – and you get the idea of what AHIP was aiming for by hitting Nashville, TN for its annual event this year. AHIP integrated with the music city to drive home core themes around people, data and technology. From the opening session that featured local musicians sharing their personal stories, to an evening concert featuring Midland to the closing session “Breaking Barriers and Opening Doors: A Conversation with Billie Jean King,” AHIP highlighted that what’s most important are the people and what they experience—in life and health care.

In addition, the themes of personalization, user experience, trust, simplicity and transparency were common in most presentations. But, the big take away was this: what needs to be done to “get things done”? Action was the focus for health care stakeholders and delivering health and happiness for people are the keys. It’s certainly easier said than done, but the best health care brains are working to bring a more holistic approach to health care to deliver a better experience for people at every touchpoint in the system. And, it just so happens, the best minds in health care are just regular people who attend events to connect with others, gain new insights and live their lives in the best way possible. Here are a few of my biggest take-aways from this year’s event.

Health starts early.

A few of the most memorable sessions during AHIP might not have been the typical ones you travel to a health insurance event to attend. One session, “Prevention, Well-Being and Population Health Improvement” touched me the most.

Health starts in early childhood with nutritious food and education on how to make the right choices for taking care of yourself. It was interesting to see sessions emphasizing that long-term well-being is not only defined by eating nutritious food and getting exercise, but also by community, companionship, housing and—yes, getting quality health care.

Being a food enthusiast who loves spending time in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes and enjoying a delicious home cooked meal (preferably shared with family and friends), it was a pleasure listening to Sam Kass. He is a Chicago native who spent six years in the White House feeding the Obama family. Hearing him speak about nutrition, seasonal cooking and sustainable food made me realize that how I grew up is unfortunately not the norm. More people today tend to reach for easy-to-access, processed food, which does not require any effort to make and is just quickly eaten—often on the go—with little awareness about the impact to their health.

Connection and community are factors on health.

Companionship is a big contributor to physical and mental health. Douglas Nemecek, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Behavioral Health from Cigna Corporation shared that after looking into some statistics about loneliness they commissioned a survey last year. They used the UCLA loneliness scale and asked 20,000 American adults questions about loneliness and connections. The results showed that nearly half of them said that they feel lonely or left out. But the biggest surprise was that Gen Z, 18- to 22-year-old young adults, revealed that they felt lonelier than the older adults and that they felt less healthy than older generations. The study also showed that, not surprisingly, people who have daily interactions with other people are less lonely—best are eye-to-eye conversations.

Usually, when you think about lonely people you may visualize older folks who live alone. And this is the population the Togetherness Program from CareMore Health focuses on. This comprehensive initiative is aimed at identifying loneliness among its senior members and treating it through community-based interventions and close engagement with identified patients. Robin Caruso, Chief Togetherness Officer and my unofficial winner for the best job title, shared some insights from the program. Since its introduction in 2018, there have been approximately 23,700 outbound calls and visits. This outreach resulted in increased participation in exercise programs, like Silver Sneakers, by 57% and reduced hospital admissions by about 21%. This is human connection helping people who want to live healthier lives.

Turning buzzwords into real results.

Sure, AHIP wasn’t immune to buzzwords, but there is some great progress being made in the industry related to the core buzzwords I heard at AHIP, including personalization, transparency, trust and member focus. Here are a just a few examples of the buzzword-focused sessions that I thought highlighted some of the positive change taking place in the industry.

Personalization. One session that really demonstrated the opportunity for delivering on the promise of personalization was a presentation from Aflac, the insurance company with the dancing duck. Jamie Lee, Senior Vice President and Chief Service Officer from Aflac, refers to today’s customer as the Gen C customer—the connected consumer. No matter of age, gender, ethnicity, generation, customers all want the same things, to be connected and in control.

Transparency. Hardly a day goes by without hearing the word transparency in the news. So, it was no surprise that the topic was a main talking point during this year’s AHIP. Often heard in relation to cost, but it went beyond price transparency. The discussion was about being transparent in all aspects of health care. AHIP itself has developed transparency principles to focus on empowering consumers and making care more affordable. How can we as industry help offering transparency to your members? In the age of technology offering a transparency tool to members is nothing a health plan can deny. Letting members shop for health care is inevitable in today’s health care jungle. Transparency for health plans is shopping for the right transparency tool and the exhibit hall offered a glimpse of what’s out there. Choosing the right partner is key to success for health plans and helps members to make smarter health care choices and be savvier health care shoppers. So as a health plan, look out for offerings like provider search, reviews from your members peers, cost and treatment timeline to just name a few which can help a plan to stay transparent and build trust, which leads us to the next often heard buzzword.

Trust. But what do people want from the health care industry specifically? They want us to earn their trust, know them and make it easy for them. So, they do what we all do—or at least should do—and research customers and how they interact with our solutions to design what they want and need. This can be difficult in practice. David Cordani, President and CEO from Cigna shared what they are hearing from individuals: “Help me access the right care, the way I need it, when I need it, how I need it. Help me afford it. Then, eliminate surprises.” And they are working to address their members concerns and wishes. They recently partnered with Express Scripts to launch the Patient Assurance Program, which ensures diabetics in participating plans pay just very little for a month supply of insulin. He also shared his thoughts about the importance of treating the whole person and that the industry needs to break down the barrier separating comprehensive physical and behavioral health to truly be consumer-centric. And according to Ingrid Lindberg, Founder and Customer Experience Officer from Chief Customer, “Your people are always your best asset.” As an industry thought leader on consumer experience (CX), she recommends generating trust by showing off your people and let your customers know who’s behind your brand.

Member focus. The important take away for everyone at AHIP this year is to always ask ‘how can we best meet member’s needs?’ What we’re learning is that you need many things to meet their needs. Offer an experience. Be unique. Respect your members requests. Be consistent. Be reliable. Listen to your members. Yes, consumers want to be heard and the voice of members matter. According to Nic Vu, CEO of snapback and Former General Manager and Senior Vice President of the Adidas Group, the most powerful thing to start transforming your goals is the believe or at least the recognition that you are listening to your members.

To close this review the AHIP 2019 way—great things happened here!

I’d love to hear what you thought of the event and the direction the industry is going on these core themes. Feel free to leave your comments below.