Insurance execs optimistic that data will improve health, but outline obstacles

Both insurers and hospitals hope that data will improve patients' health, but industry experts at the Connecticut Insurance Market Summit pointed out that challenges remain, according to an article in the Hartford Courant.

At the summit, Peter Bowers, M.D., senior clinical officer for Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Connecticut, and Jerry Daly, a senior vice president at Optum, UnitedHealth's informatics unit, both offered a look to what insurers are hoping to accomplish in the coming years.

Bowers said a major priority is "behavioral change management," or getting people to act in the best interest of their health, according to the article. This of course, he said, is very hard to do. Daly added that people make the right decisions for their health, even when under a doctor's supervision, only about 57 percent of the time. 

One of the biggest hurdles when engaging patients in their own health is that as the technology to detect health issues improves, the cost to the patient goes up, the executives said. These costs add up as health systems merge, improve data use, implement telemedicine and shift cost containing responsibilities from insurers to medical systems, the article notes, but industry leaders at the summit agreed that those costs are mitigated by putting payment responsibilities on employees through higher deductibles.

Yet high deductibles, as FierceHealthPayer has reported, can cause individuals to cut back on health services, which can be counter-productive to what insurers and hospitals are now trying to achieve.

Jeffrey Flaks, Hartford HealthCare's chief operating officer, added that there are many unnecessary medical tests, unnecessary hospital admissions and missed opportunities to use generic drugs that are adding to inefficiency in patient care. Furthermore, he said there's a large amount of work that can be moved away from doctors and down the professional chain, according to the article.

To learn more:
- read the Hartford Courant article (subscription may be required)

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