UPMC Health Plan partners with WebMD in online coaching

UPMC Health Plan has partnered with WebMD to begin offering digital health assistants that provide coaching, cost comparisons, quality ratings and other services to its members.

WebMD's Digital Health Assistants service is a virtual health program that will provide UPMC Health Plan members with various type of information, such as medical service and procedure costs, hospital quality ratings, provider directory and personalized coaching tips, reported Information Week Healthcare.

The virtual program is designed to work alongside existing UPMC Health Plan programs, including its personal health records, telephonic and work-site health coaching and wellness programs, Insurance & Technology reported.

"WebMD's innovative services, including virtual health coaching, further enhance our members' experience and access to quality healthcare information," Diane Holder, president and CEO of UPMC Health Plan, said. "Integrating WebMD services directly into our insurance plan designs, UPMC Health Plan brings good health home and streamlines the delivery of health information to our members."

UPMC Health Plan said it hopes to accompany the online coaching program with incentives, either through employers who sponsor health plans or directly for members with individual policies, to motivate members to participate. "The vast majority of people who engage with these programs do so when they're incentivized to do so," David Passavant, UPMC Health Plan's senior director of consumer innovation, told InformationWeek Healthcare.

The new virtual program also allows members to comparison shop for 40 routine medical procedures, such as MRIs, biopsies, colonoscopies and mammograms, at both in-network and out-of-network hospitals, reported the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "We as consumers don't really understand or feel what health care really costs," Passavant said. "There can be big price differences between hospitals."

Soon members will be able to access the virtual program through a smartphone app, which UPMC Health Plan hopes to release in six to eight weeks. "A mobile device is a much better platform for behavior change than the Web," Passavant said. The app may provide text messages or phone calls to remind members to take medications, exercise or make a doctor's appointment, for example.

To learn more:
- read the Information Week Healthcare article
- see the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article
- check out the Insurance & Technology article