Responding to the epidemic proportions of diseases such as diabetes, arthritis and heart problems in the U.S., Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are spearheading a new online venture aimed at helping clients prevent such illnesses. Joining the venture is population health management company HealthAtoZ (Monmouth Junction, N.J.), which asserts that access to electronic health and medical information and counseling programs makes employees better-informed medical consumers and leads to lower healthcare costs. Together, with assistance from the University of Michigan Health Management Research Center, BCBSM and Blue Care Network are offering members access to a personalized online health appraisal tool hosted and maintained by HealthAtoZ.
"Americans want to know more about the manageable aspects of their lifestyles, like diet and physical activity, and how they can influence the quality of their health as well as the level and expense of health services," says Noreen Gurney, case management team leader, BCBSM. To enable this, the online aspect of the Blues' existing health management program, BlueHealthConnection, begins with an online health risk appraisal.
"By completing an appraisal, our members will get immediate feedback about their specific health risks," says Lisa Briskey, project manager, medical care operation, BCBSM. The appraisal provides feedback that can be viewed as often as members like. A second tool allows members to track their progress. "This kind of individualized feedback can encourage members to discuss their individual health concerns and risks with their physicians and also to develop an action plan to increase healthy lifestyles," says Briskey.
BCBSM members whose health plans are underwritten by the Blues automatically qualify for the assessment, unless their groups opt out of the program. Members in companies that self-insure and contract with the Blues to administer their coverage have the option of adding BlueHealthConnection and the new online tools to their benefits. "An online component to our healthcare management program is a logical and progressive next step," says Gurney.
According to HealthAtoZ, healthcare insurers can achieve an ROI of between $2.30 and $6.00 for every dollar spent on proactive healthcare information programs. "Employers, who shoulder the majority of the cost of keeping employees healthy and productive, are looking for positive ways to encourage healthier lifestyles," says Gurney. "Every stakeholder will be using technology in more and better ways to accomplish these goals."