In Good Companies, Volume IV

Working at an insurance brokerage and consulting firm, I have the privilege of learning about some very innovative companies who work with clients at the firm.  I also do quite a bit of research myself on various healthcare companies – it only helps me to do my job better.  Some of what you’re reading below is research I’ve gathered on my own.

With that said, I thought it would be sort of neat to highlight some of these companies in a piece I’m calling “In Good Companies”. You’re currently in the midst of Volume IV!

Here are a few in no particular order. If my blog does not do them justice, check them out for yourselves!

ReInforced Care – Hospital re-admissions are a real problem in healthcare. In fact, the website for ReInforced Care shares some date from the New England Journal of Medicine, namely that 25% of all discharged patients are re-admitted within 30 days.  Not good. The reasons for this range from lack of a support system to not having a PCP to manage care.  ReInforced Care helps reduce admissions through a number of means – assistance with scheduling appointments and finding a PCP, communications to assure appointments are kept and medicine is filled/taken, and patient education around the discharge plan.  With ACOs looming on the horizon, this organization is poised to really impact healthcare in a positive and meaningful way.

Audax Health – Have you ever tried putting together a complex puzzle without seeing what the finished product is supposed to look like?  It ain’t easy.  And I’d kind of like to think this metaphor works for our healthcare puzzle here in the U.S. How’d you like to have something to help connect the dots?  Audax Health is the child of gaming and social media, not healthcare. But the principles that drive it are directly applicable to healthcare. It helps connect the dots between formal healthcare, lifestyle choices and disease prevention. By taking popular trends in gaming and social media (sites like Facebook and Linked In), individuals are educated on their health status, diseases, and lifestyle choices that directly impact health.  The result – better health.  In a cool, hip fashion no less! (Do the kids still say “cool” and “hip”?)

Health Leads – Nothing compares to the heart of a volunteer.  And now, nothing compares to the health impact that the volunteers at Health Leads have on the individuals, children, and families who work with Health Leads.  I recently blogged about Atul Gawande’s Hot Spotters and how Joseph Brenner lead a city-changing approach to healthcare that extended far beyond the care received in the hospital or doctor’s office.  Health Leads is taking a similar approach. Rather than write about it myself, I’m going to take a quote off their website from one of their former college student volunteers, Mia Lozada, now a resident at the University of California-San Francisco: “My classmates think you write a prescription, and you’re done. I ask, can the patient read the prescription? Does she have health insurance to fill it? Does she need transportation to the pharmacy? Does she have food at home to take with the prescription?” By addressing the questions Mia poses here, Health Leads is able to make an impact. Read more about them. And donate if you can, because they’re doing great things.

Extend Health – If you think commercial health plans are complicated, take a look at Medicare and all of the Medicare supplement plans. Now put yourself in the position of a Human Resources executive working with their company’s retiree population.  In addition to worrying about each of the employees, spouses and dependents enrolled in the commercial plans offered by the employer, they need to get up to speed on Medicare (Parts A through Z) as well as the Medicare Advantage plans that are out there in each state. Sounds like a lot to manage? Well then let Extend Health lend a hand.  Their Medicare Exchange allows an employer to outsource this portion of the business which is good for a number of reasons: 1) the retiree typically gets a better individual rate than through any sort of group plan sponsored by the employer, 2) Extend Health has specialists that spend as much time as is required to assist the retiree in choosing the right plan, and 3) the HR exec can focus attention elsewhere.  Sounds like a good idea?  I think so.

FairCareMD – You’ve heard of all those sites that let you shop for the best rate or bid on whatever trinket or electronic device you want.  How about applying that idea to healthcare?  FairCareMD is the first Open Healthcare Network that exists to remove some of the “unfairness” in healthcare and allows professionals such as doctors and dentists to compete for market share on prices they negotiate with their patients.  These patients are paying out-of-pocket and agree to the pricing and the doctor without having to worry about getting confusing EOBs from their insurance companies.  Once again, the insurance company is being removed from the equation.  Good idea?  With over 238,000 care searches to date, I’d say the idea is catching on.

That does it for another edition of In Good Companies.  If you know of an innovative health company, let me know!  You might just see it in Volume V!  And if you enjoyed this post, check out some of the companies I’ve showcased in previous volumes of In Good Companies!

[Disclaimer: I am not receiving any compensation or bonus from any of these companies to do this. This isn’t an endorsement of these companies based on personal or professional experience.  I do not speak for my employer.  This post does not influence client placement or recommendations to clients. I just think it is neat to showcase some great minds and great companies at work.]

Hot Spotting At Work – The Next Step For Employers?

If you are a fan of Atul Gawande, then you’ve likely read his work in The New Yorker.

In January of 2011, he did a piece entitled “The Hot Spotters” which covered Dr. Jeffrey Brenner’s city-altering approach to healthcare in Camden, New Jersey.   By using healthcare data to create health maps, Brenner was able to track the healthcare delivery system and how it was utilized throughout the city of Camden.

By engaging high risk, high cost, frequent flying individuals, Brenner was able to significantly impact health status of the patients in Camden.  The results, which were quite impressive, included improvement in prescription adherence, weight loss, patient education on health conditions, and reduced trips to the ER.  All of which contributed to reduced medical costs.

So how does this relate to employers?

I mentioned in a previous post that surveys showed the majority of employers were not interested in pushing their employees to state health exchanges. With employers committed to offering health benefits to attract and retain talent, I do not think it would be a far reach for employers to begin seriously thinking about hot spotting at work.

Now I’m sure some would argue that employers would be over-reaching their boundaries with employees if they were to somehow force engagement into this sort of program.  But let’s make difficult leap that healthcare costs are not sustainable and that more innovative, perhaps drastic measure may be warranted in years to come.

With some large to medium-sized employers considering on-site clinics through companies such as HealthStat, it’s quite possible that a hot spotter-type program would fit quite well with this new direction for employers.  Couple this with things such as telemedicine and personalized patient health records, and employers suddenly have some really powerful tools to help engage employees in better health.

There is, of course, another leap that one must make in order to buy into the idea of hot spotting at work.  In Atul Gawande’s writing, he noted that social workers and other health care professionals were involved in activities such as visiting patients at home to assess family and support systems.  The line between home and work would become quite blurred if this were to occur so I’m not sure that the full extent of Brenner’s approach could be used.

But it’s worth a look.  We need to start somewhere.

[A note to my readers: In recent months, life has kept me pretty busy. This has resulted in fewer posts over the last five months or so.  Thus I may be trying a bit of a different approach – shorter blogs that I can bang out in half the time.  That doesn’t mean you won’t still catch a few of my “typical” long-winded blogs…they just won’t be as frequent.  Thanks for your continued support!]