Cigna aims to lead 'culture shift' that encourages insurers to publish their data insights

Cigna has a message for its fellow managed care companies: It’s time to make the insights you glean from your robust data sets publicly available.

The managed care industry is flush with data from a variety of sources, according to a post on the Health Affairs Blog by Stuart L. Lustig, M.D., the medical director for child and adolescent care for Cigna’s behavioral health business, and Liana Castel, Ph.D., an adjunct professor and a medical writer in the Cigna Center for Clinical Excellence and Member Wellbeing.

Many companies also have in-house analytics systems to study their many sources of data, but those analyses don’t make it into academic publications or presentations nearly as often as they should, Lustig and Castel argue.

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One reason for this may be that managed care companies don’t see a short-term return on investment from publishing scientific insights. Their business model demands that they focus on selling insurance and administering benefits—and for publicly traded companies, providing value to shareholders. Further, companies may be worried about the prospect of publishing any insights would benefit their competitors.

Cigna, however, is trying to change its culture so that it becomes commonplace for it to publish findings from analyses on health services use and delivery, according to Lustig and Castel. Thus, it has launched a pilot initiative in which a professional medical writer helps publish any projects that are deemed worthy of dissemination.

Any concerns about relinquishing a competitive advantage, they add, are more than outweighed by customers’ appreciation of Cigna’s ability to bring new innovations into the marketplace and the opportunity to contribute to improving health and healthcare.

“Time has arrived for all managed care companies to claim a rightful seat at the table as experts in health services delivery by contributing in a scholarly domain,” the authors conclude.

There is another recent example of an insurer dipping its toes into the academic realm, however. Humana is teaming up with Amgen on a venture in which they will conduct prospective observational studies and use data analytics to improve care for the insurer’s members with serious medical conditions.