Leaders Cite Healthcare Consumerism as Key to Employee Wellness

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Leaders Cite Healthcare Consumerism as Key to Employee Wellness

Five leaders in employer health addressed the annual Health Technology Forum Conference in San Francisco on May 27th and 28th. Moderated by Doug Field, the founder and CEO of The Institute for HealthCare Consumerism (IHC), the panel discussed the topic of “How organizations are using technology to improve employee health”.

Safeway (recently acquired by Cerberus Capital) had virtually no increase in healthcare costs during a period when the national cost trend was increasing at close to 10% per year.

Panelist Sheila Viswanathan, EdD, RD, who served as Safeway’s Manager of Health Education and Research, provided an overview of the tech-enabled services used to empower and engage employees including –

  • Consumer-directed health plans
  • Biometrics programs that reward reaching health targets such as lower BMI
  • An on-line transparency tool to encourage price shopping
  • Computerized assistance to guide employees through the complex menu of services
  • Software that provides health education targeted to a specific employees needs

Currently, Viswanathan is Director of Nutrition Research at Zipongo, a well-funded start-up that is helping employees manage their nutrition.

According to Dr. Lena Cheng, VP of Medical Affairs at telemedicine leader Doctor On Demand, a consumer-first focus has helped her firm win contracts with Comcast, Apple, Wells Fargo and other large, self-insured employers. Her development team looked outside the healthcare industry to design the user experience for their Smartphone app, even using Facebook and Pinterest as models. In addition to the user friendly interface, Doctor On Demand also developed the technology to interface smoothly with employer health plans.

Palo Alto-based Jiff also touts a consumer focus as a key element in their employer wellness platform. Jiff’s team includes developers of best-selling online and mobile game platforms who tailor user experience for different segments. According to Director of Marketing Molly Andruszkiewicz, “customer focus is in our DNA”.   The firm has recently received a $20 million series C round of funding and is growing rapidly.

At leading health plan Blue Shield of California, Dr. Melissa Welch, MD, MPH is working to make the care experience as easy as using an iPhone. As Vice President, Healthcare Market Innovations and Support, her initiatives include improving online and Smartphone-based “browse and shop” capabilities, offering mobile phone-based “just-in-time” medical care and using the chronic disease management platform from Omada health for pre-diabetics.

The IHC’s Doug Field summarized by describing healthcare consumerism as a mega-trend that is energizing employers, health plans, brokers and consultants to empower employees to take charge of their own health. The physicians, technologists and investors of The Health Technology Forum will increase the success of their change efforts by designing with the consumer in mind and partnering with employers, where most people spend a majority of their waking hours.

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