Lessons from year one of Blue Shield of California's Wellvolution program

Over the past year, Blue Shield of California has grown its Wellvolution digital and community health network into the largest in the nation.

The platform includes close to 60 digital apps and covers services at 30,000 locations. About 26,000 Blue Shield members are currently enrolled in Wellvolution, the insurer said. Through the platform, members are matched with customized programs and digital coaching for a number of health conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, obesity and behavioral health needs.

Angie Kalousek, director of markets and lifestyle medicine at Blue Shield, told Fierce Healthcare that giving members the opportunity to direct their own care was central to the design of Wellvolution.

“One of the premises that we built this platform on is member choice,” she said. “That allows members to be matched with programs that are going to work best for them, but ultimately always leaves the choice in their hands.”

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Weight loss is cited by many members as the main reason they join Wellvolution, and, in the program’s first six months, 13,000 participants collectively lost more than 83,000 pounds, Blue Shield said.

Kalousek said that about 60% of those who join up do so to manage their weight, and about 31% of that population so far has achieved clinical outcomes through Wellvolution. About 30% of participants enroll in the diabetes prevention program, and a quarter have seen clinical results to date, she said.

The remaining 10% are enrolled in a program to manage or reverse Type 2 diabetes, and 41% of those members have seen their A1C levels decrease or their condition reverse, Kalousek said.

“It's really encouraging for us to see that not only are people really enjoying the program but they’re really seeing results,” she said.

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Kalousek said that participants in the program are anecdotally seeing other benefits too, including improvements in management of their asthma or Crohn’s disease related to weight loss.

The coronavirus pandemic forced Kalousek and the Blue Shield team to pivot and adjust their efforts to meet the new demands of that scenario, but it also exposed a new focus area for Wellvolution in the future: mental health.

Wellvolution’s solution provider partners have all stepped up their efforts in the mental and behavioral health space to help members better manage stress and emotional wellbeing amid COVID-19, she said.

The pandemic also pushed the team to change plans for marketing and outreach around Wellvolution as mitigating COVID-19 became an all-hands-on-deck situation, Kalousek said. In the latter half of the year, though, the team plans to again ramp up its outreach to Blue Shield’s members.

“It's been an interesting year because we had a big plan and COVID hit, so the plan completely shifted,” she said.